What do you do when you're feeling under the weather? Do you take some aspirin, eat a bowl of chicken soup? When you have more serious health concerns, do you consult a doctor? When you have a viral infection, a physician may prescribe an antibiotic. As flu season approaches, getting a vaccination may be on your to-do list. And for your mental health, do you see a psychotherapist to work through your depressive moods?
These are all common ways to seek treatment for personal conditions; they are reliable resources and easily accessible. But are there alternative therapies available to improve your health and wellness? Yes, there are several routes you can take to complement classic therapeutic procedures as well as enhance your well-being.
Many are accustomed to the Western traditions of practicing medicine. When one is ill, they typically will seek out their physician for guidance and prescription medications to treat the condition. There are also a whole host of non-western modes of treatment to consider.
Some Eastern medicines are practiced and used by many as an alternative to the prescriptions of Western doctors. Eastern medicines are typically more holistic; they are composed of plant-based and herbal ingredients to treat some human ailments. Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient art. Dating back more than 3,000 years, it is based on the vital energies of the body called meridians. These meridians are like channels streaming through the entire body and are all connected. When these channels are blocked or not functioning appropriately, it is believed that it can lead to illness. Medicines are concocted to allow for energetic flow; they may come in the form of teas or ointments are given to a person for healing.
Another Eastern tradition is called Ayurveda. This, too, is an ancient medicine system that is over 5,000 years old and originates in India. Compounds of minerals, herbs, and other natural ingredients were used to create medicines, ointments, and elixirs to treat conditions like arthritis, digestive problems, or high blood pressure. Although it is an ancient practice, modern-day healers use this and other similar Chinese medicines in their treatments. One can go to school and become certified in these modes of therapy. Those seeking other ways to treat their asthma or stress without the use of synthetic medicines often turn to these alternative holistic measures.
Conditions related to the body can also be treated with alternative therapies. They can act as complementary treatments after a physical injury or surgery. Let's say an athlete strains her back in a tennis match. She may receive medications for the pain and physical therapy to help her recover. She may also visit a chiropractor to help with any skeletal realignment. For some, seeing a chiropractor can take the place of some surgeries and even advance the healing of an injured person.
Another option for the tennis player is to go to an acupuncturist. These specialized caregivers know the art of this Chinese medicine. Therapeutic needles are placed in receptive points on the body, like the back, feet, and head to trigger energetic stimuli. If the tennis player was experiencing muscle spasms due to her injury, the needlework can relax the overactive muscles so they can relax and heal properly. People may seek assistance from certified acupuncturists for other complications like smoking, anxiety, injuries due to car accidents, side effects of chemotherapy, and a whole lot more.
Other forms of physical treatments that are common to people include therapeutic massage, acupressure, and structural integration. The first is probably more familiar to people. One may visit a massage therapist to relieve muscle tension and to relax. Licensed massage therapists can specialize in many areas including deep tissue massage, sports massage, and even neuromuscular therapy. Massage therapy is quite accessible and widely accepted as an alternative form of therapy. One can find spas and independent clinicians to receive therapeutic massage bodywork.
Acupressure, Reflexology, and Thai Massage are other elements of physical treatment that have Chinese medicine roots. All three of these therapies use hand, thumb, and finger techniques to find trigger points in the body to promote health and well-being. Thai Massage, for example, is a systematic mode of massage that aligns the whole body energetically. The hand and bodywork of the therapist on the client taps into releasing bound up the connective tissue that causes pain and discomfort. And because the whole body works as one unit, it is important, in Thai Massage, to target the entire body to achieve and maintain that holistic balance.
Structural Integration works very much like chiropractic treatments and Thai Massage. The intention of this bodywork technique is to address connective tissue and the fascia within the body. When certain parts of the body are injured, scar tissue forms which have the potential to cause other physical disorders or pain. The nerves, blood vessels, and vital organs can be significantly influenced by bound-up fascia and scar tissue in the body. These modes of therapy help to release and safely break apart these binding connective tissues so the patient can experience a full range of motion, flexibility, strength, and overall improved well-being.
Some alternative therapies can be done virtually. In cases when seeking outside treatments are not possible, online options are also favorable. With new advances in technology, one can get the help they need without leaving the house. One just needs an internet connection and some video streaming software.
Many doctor's offices can do online consultations and diagnoses. Video conferencing has made it possible for anyone to discuss symptoms and show injured areas to licensed doctors and nurses to receive home-remedy treatments or the next line of required treatment. Having this capability avoids long waits in doctors' offices or emergency rooms. One can receive relatively quick advice over the internet.
Psychotherapists and social workers are also taking advantage of the online network of working with clients. Licensed clinicians are offering individuals and group therapy sessions using video conferencing software. Again, this may be quite convenient for a person who cannot leave the house or does not have time to commute across town from their office. Sessions can be done in the comfort of their own home or at their desk.
Physical exercise can also be done online. There is a wide variety of resources to take a yoga class, engage in aerobic exercise or even work with a personal trainer directly from home Internet search engines like Google can lead you to YouTube videos, yoga studios, and health facilities that offer an online version of self-care, health, and fitness.
When seeking out any one of these alternate therapies, it is important to do your research. Safety is key when deciding upon other modes of treatment. Most procedures in Western medicine have been scientifically studied. Prescription medications have to be carefully reviewed and tested before being offered as safe and effective uses for treatment. Unfortunately, not all alternative measures have been researched and tested in the same way. Many of the results, although positive, are anecdotal or have not gone through rigorous scientific research like other therapies.
Look for certified and/or licensed clinicians and therapists. Some of these disciplines, as mentioned, require a significant amount of study and training: yoga instructors, massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, and acupuncturists to name a few. Be sure that you have a professional consultation with any of these healers before subjecting yourself to something new and potentially foreign to you. Ask about their training and credentials and gain knowledge about their procedures before deciding if this is the right treatment for you.
It may be beneficial to ask about payment. Some alternative therapists can take medical insurance. Some are cash-based so ask about sliding scales and payment plans.
The overall intention is to experience safe and effective alternative modes of treatment that enhance your health, fitness, and well-being. Consider investigating some of these styles of treatment to walk the path toward a rich and productive life.