"The world is moving on from this idea that you either take the conventional approach or you take the CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) approach," says Brent Bauer, medical editor for "The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine" (Oxmoor House). "Now it's a both/and. Patients and physicians are embracing the best of the two worlds and bringing them together."As quoted in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, about 38% of American adults use some form of alternative medicine. The four most common natural treatments include acupuncture, massage, Reiki, and meditation.
AcupunctureOver 2,500 years old, acupuncture is being used from conditions such as nausea and vomiting to treatment of back pain. In fact, the National Institutes of Health released a statement in 1997 concluding that:
acupuncture is effective in treating adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting, postoperative dental pain, stroke rehab, headaches, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.The World Health Organization add other medical conditions to that list, including drug and alcohol addictions, bronchitis and asthma.
"Massage has a million applications," says Bauer. "We know that stress suppresses the immune system, stresses the heart, exacerbates chronic illnesses. Anything that helps you deal better with stress — massage fits that bill nicely — is beneficial."Different types of massage offer different benefits. The types of massage include deep tissue massage, Swedish massage, trigger-point massage and cranial-sacral therapy. The benefits of massage can reduce swelling and joint pain, lessen muscle spasms and improve circulation. But perhaps the biggest health benefit of massage is relief of stress. According to J. David Forbes, director of Nashville Integrated Medicine,
"Stress is one of the most central players in our day-to-day health and development of disease. An enormous amount of scientific data demonstrates that the capacity for the body to deeply relax and settle into a deep connection with oneself has profound health effects."
ReikiAnother gift of healing from Eastern Asia, Japanese Reiki works to raise the "ki," or life-force energy, in and around you as the Reiki master positions his hands above your body in different formations. The benefit of Reiki appears to be its promotion of relaxation.
"Like healing touch, reiki can promote relaxation," says Bauer. "One study suggests it may positively affect blood pressure and heart and respiration rates." Reiki has been researched far less than acupuncture, Bauer says, but it can offer some of the same benefits. "Both purport to impact energy at some level — acupuncture via chi that travels in meridians and through the use of needles inserted in the skin; Reiki via energy that is more diffuse and that can be manipulated by the practitioner, even without touching the patient."
MeditationThe health benefits of meditation have been know for years but only recently has it been given more respect. Forms of meditation you may be familiar with include yoga, tai chi and Qi gong. These forms of meditation combine physical movement with breathing exercises. Meditation such as mantra, transcendental and mindfulness attempt to achieve total stillness while focusing on awareness of the present. Meditation helps with:
- binge eating
- high blood pressure
- substance abuse
David Miller, a medical doctor and licensed acupuncturist who is dual certified in pediatrics and traditional Chinese medicine, has this to say about the mind-body connection that is at the root of the health benefits of meditation...
"One of the things we know about human physiology is that a firm split between mind and body is incorrect to make. We know there are many different types of neurological pathways — endocrine, adrenal, thyroid, gonadal axes — that get strong input from our higher brain centers. So an individual's ability to control their mind vastly improves their ability to self-regulate their bodies as well."
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