Alternatives A-Z

Donna Easto, C.H., H.C., M.H., Certified Herbal Educator

In the search for better health, many people are looking to a broad array of alternatives or complements to standard medicine. Some of these medical treatments are very old, some very new. In the following weeks, we’ll explore the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of alternative approaches from Needle Therapy to Zone Therapy. These brief descriptions are for information only and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any particular therapy or technique.  It is important to do further research and discuss any treatment choice with your health care provider.

In acupressure, the practitioner applies firm pressure using fingers, thumbs, palms and elbows to specific points to stimulate and regulate the body’s healing energy. Developed thousands of years ago in China, acupressure strives to achieve the traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) goal of keeping the body balanced through the healthy flow of healing energy (qi/chi) circulating through the body along pathways called meridians. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points on the body, but acupressure is a non-invasive therapy that uses no needles. Pressure is applied to each point as needed and may vary in duration from a few seconds to five minutes until relief is achieved. Shiatsu is a style of acupressure. The Shiatsu therapist applies pressure to specific points and wider areas of the body and will incorporate stretches for relaxation. A typical acupressure session lasts about one hour, Shiatsu 40-60 minutes.

Acupuncture, or needle therapy, is an ancient Chinese technique that involves the insertion of hair-thin needles at precise points on the body. The objective is to correct the underlying causes of disease and bring about a lasting cure. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, releasing chemicals into muscles, the spinal cord, and the brain. These biochemical changes restore the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being. Acupuncture opens blocked meridians in the body, helping the qi (chi) flow freely, stimulating physical reactions, including brain activity, blood chemistry, endocrine function, blood pressure, heart rate, and immune system response.  The acupuncturist will assess your condition and insert needles in the appropriate points on your body. The session lasts about 50-60 minutes. It may include, with your permission, the use of moxibustion, a heat therapy that makes use of herbs such as Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) applied above the acupuncture point. Ailments that may respond to needle therapy include pain in the lower back and neck, osteoarthritis, knee pain, headaches, and migraines.

An Alexander Technique teacher will help you recognize and change poor postural habits and unhealthy body mechanics that may limit your mobility and interfere with your body’s optimum functioning. It’s a gentle and gradual process using simple exercises to improve balance, posture and coordination.  Frederick Mathias Alexander developed this approach in the 19th century.  An Alexander Technique session lasts about 30-50 minutes and involves gentle hands-on guidance and verbal coaching. 

NEXT: Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Biofeedback 

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