Although called “alternative medicine” today, these modalities actually arise out of centuries of wisdom and practices from many different cultures around the world. Before what we know as traditional Western medicine today was practiced, people turned to these types of medicine for their healthcare. However, as the practice of traditional medicine became more mainstream, the use of these old forms of medicine gradually went by the wayside.
Yet, in the past ten to twenty years, there has been a new awakening and movement to turn back to the old ways. There has been a significant increase in the number of people who have turned to alternative medicine as a way of managing their health more holistically, thus reducing and sometimes completely avoiding the use of chemicals found in standard drugs to treat their symptoms. In fact, recent studies have shown that approximately four out of 10 adults in the U.S. use or have used some type of alternative medicine to supplement, not necessarily replace, traditional Western medicine.
There are many forms of alternative medicine being practiced today, but the most common modalities sought out include acupuncture, herbal medicine, chiropractic treatments, meditation, massage therapy, yoga and hypnosis.
Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago and although there is evidence of acupuncture being used in Europe hundreds of years ago, it was not until the second half of the twentieth century that its use started to spread once again in Europe and later in the U.S. Acupuncture consists of the insertion of very fine needles, at different depths, through the skin on specific points throughout the body. These points are located on meridians through which Chi energy runs. Although there is not scientific or anatomical proof that these meridians exist, and scientists still are not sure how it works, its many therapeutic benefits have been documented for the treatment of headache, pack pain, fibromyalgia and other ailments.
Herbal medicine has been traditionally used in many cultures for hundreds of years. Although more sophisticated methods for the use of herbs are used today, the basic premise of using plants for medicinal purposes to promote good health, as well as treating and even preventing disease, remains the same. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine relies on herbal medicine to treat patients.
Chiropractors work on the joints and soft tissues of the spine – the most important link between the body and the brain. When the back is injured, it locks down, making the non-injured parts work harder. Thus, when adjustments are made to the spine, it takes the pressure off the nerves as well as causing the release of endorphins, which are the “feel good chemicals” released by the brain, which in turn makes the patients feel better. Dr. Andrew Hope of Hope Health and Wellness has been a chiropractor since 1986 and explains that over the past several years he has certainly noticed an increase in the number of people seeking chiropractic treatment, as it seems that more people are looking for alternatives to taking prescription medicine and most people can receive chiropractic care without the need for any medication.
According to the National Institute of Health, more than 10 percent of the population in the U.S. has tried meditation, rendering it one of the most common forms of alternative medicine being used today. Meditation is something that people can do practically anywhere. It is free, and most of all, a very personalized experience. Meditation is not only great for stress release but also, according to the Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine, there has been an increase in scientific evidence to support its effectiveness in improving symptoms of asthma, pain and high blood pressure. Additionally, because meditation naturally reduces stress levels, it may also alleviate anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Although getting a massage has become a part of modern lifestyle, in addition to simply relaxing stressed muscles and relieving stress, massage therapy actually helps improve medical conditions. Certain forms of massage can alleviate the symptoms associated with cancer treatment as well as reducing the pain in fibromyalgia patients. April Colton of Ocala has reaped the benefits of massage therapy for a long time. In addition to receiving massage therapy for relaxation purposes, Colton swears by the benefits of deep tissue massage as well as Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) treatments. Deep tissue massage breaks up scar tissue and can also release any type of muscle injury or spasm. MLD is a massage treatment intended to promote lymph drainage in the lymph vessels.
Practiced for centuries, Yoga combines meditation with mild stretching and specific physical positions to bring together the body, mind and spirit to ultimately attain maximum health. In addition to relaxation, Yoga has been proven to provide significant health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine practicing Yoga regularly can reduce stress, control diabetes and high blood pressure symptoms, and reduce inflammation.
According to Marie Church, certified hypnotherapist and owner of Wings of Wellness, hypnosis gives the individual the ability to unlock the subconscious through guided suggestions for a change of emotions, both physical and behavioral. Aside from the commonly known treatments of hypnosis, such as giving up smoking and weight loss, HypnoBirthing is now being used as a method of achieving relaxed, natural childbirth using self-hypnosis techniques.
With the continued increase in the cost of medical treatment and medicine, more people today are looking at alternative medicine as another option to take care of their health issues naturally.