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Alternative Medicine 101

(Part 1)

Suzanne Swearengen AP, DOM


Increased public awareness has shifted to a focus on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). In this area of healthcare there are many different modalities. Acupuncture, Chiropractic, CranioSacral therapy, Massage and various other types of body work are commonly considered. Although it is wonderful to have options, it can be confusing. How does one know which field of natural medicine will best treat a particular issue?

An excellent place for an individual to seek guidance is a practice where several types of treatment are offered. Often there are a few practitioners working together under one roof. A full service clinic of this type can help an individual determine the best course of action for their needs. This eliminates spending unnecessary time and money pursuing the wrong treatment. In many cases, a condition will require a different treatment or therapy in order to bring the individual to the next phase of healing. A multiservice clinic is prepared to optimize progress and address a large variety of conditions and ailments.

There are some guidelines to follow if such a practice is unavailable. The internet is a helpful tool in narrowing down options, but be aware of misinformation. A good search would include the words alternative or complementary medicine and the name of the condition to be addressed. For example: "alternative medicine and back pain". This would be a start. A local directory can also be helpful. Most clinics will list conditions in which they specialize in their advertisements. One can also research specific methods of treatment to determine the conditions that can be addressed successfully. Two widely practiced modalities for which good information is available are Chiropractic and Acupuncture.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are able to cover a broad spectrum of health problems. They are recognized by the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health in the treatment of body pain, dental pain, migraines, digestive issues, common cold, and reproductive disorders, just to name a few. The goal of an Acupuncture Physician is to direct the body's own defense mechanisms to correct a problem. The patient is also educated on how to maintain better health in order to prevent reoccurrence or worsening of the issue being treated. The fear that Acupuncture treatment is painful is unfounded. The needles used in Acupuncture function to stimulate, not pierce, which promotes relaxation during treatment.Acupuncture works very well by itself in most cases, but is extremely effective in optimizing results in conjunction with allopathic (modern) medicine or other alternative modalities, such as Chiropractic.

Chiropractic care and Acupuncture make a powerful team in treating issues involving the spine. Reports show that individuals hold adjustments better and get faster results with Acupuncture and Chiropractic combined. Conditions such as sciatica, scoliosis, neck and back pain respond extremely well to this combination. Chiropractic in itself addresses health problems that arise out of misalignments in the spine. The spine is the avenue of communication between the brain and the body. If the signals are not able to reach their destination, malfunction ensues. Chiropractic care works to establish proper spinal alignment and treats a variety of health concerns including pinched nerves, vertebral disc issues/problems, numbness in the limbs, and headaches.

There is an abundance of other treatment methods available including Cold Laser therapy, CranioSacral Therapy, Massage therapy, and Reiki. They too play a significant role in providing surgery and drug free solutions for health problems. Look for the second part of this topic where we will discuss these practices in greater detail.


Alternative Medicine 101

(Part 2)


Today's growing public awareness of health and wellness has resulted in the expansion of alternative and complementary healthcare options. It is wonderful to have choices, but it can be confusing. The best known modalities of practice in the field of Holistic medicine are Acupuncture and Chiropractic, but there are other beneficial treatments available. Cold laser, CranioSacral Therapy and Massage therapy are three non invasive examples.

Cold laser therapy is a great alternative to Acupuncture for individuals afraid of needles. The laser is completely painless; the most one might feel is slight warmth. The laser can stimulate specific Acupuncture points, or more general areas of the body. It is used to decrease inflammation and aids in cellular regeneration. Due to its low risk and high efficacy rate, cold laser is quickly gaining popularity for use in hospitals and clinics around the country. Cold Laser therapy is beneficial for localized pain, neuropathy, and is used in smoking cessation programs.

Massage therapy is a modality that can be used for stress management, general body aches, or to relieve specific areas of pain. Most people think of a spa-like Swedish massage when it comes to massage therapy, but there is much more to this hands on specialty. A skilled massage therapist can resolve tension related pain by directly addressing the specific muscles and soft tissues involved. They can also provide guidance in the prevention of pain tailored to one's individual needs. Massage therapy is well suited for conditions stemming from injury, overuse, and stress.

CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle treatment based on the principles of optimizing communication between the brain and body. It was developed by Doctors of Osteopathy (DO) who extensively studied the structures within the Central Nervous System (CNS). They determined that the Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CFS) must be able to flow seamlessly though the spinal cord in order for signals to travel to and from the brain. They also found that trauma, illness, and daily stressors can cause changes within the soft tissue of the CNS. These bumps in the road hinder the flow of information through the CNS. Applying specific techniques, CranioSacral Therapy helps to realign the connective tissue to optimize the flow of the CSF. CranioSacral Therapy is beneficial for a variety of conditions stemming from physical and emotional trauma or illness, such as, injury, migraines, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. It is important to note that children, as well as animals, respond exceptionally well to this deep and relaxing therapy.

CAM provides many non invasive and drug free solutions to address health problems that decrease quality of life. Alternative treatment is often the last resort after spending countless hours and dollars in hospitals and doctors' offices. People who have been helped with CAM, generally turn to alternative methods first for future health concerns. There is much information available on alternative and complementary medicine, and a little research can help point a person in the right direction. If one is still unsure, consult with a well versed alternative healthcare practitioner for guidance.

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