Looking for new ways to deal with pain, anxiety, and other chronic medical conditions? Believe me, I know the feeling. I’ve been investigating alternative therapies a lot lately. I use aromatherapy regularly and have tried other more common methods (like acupressure and chiropractic medicine), but the pain just keeps coming back. I’m always looking for new (yet safe!) treatments to try. So far, I’ve come up with five that I hadn’t heard of yet really think may be beneficial for my issues. Let’s check them out together, shall we?
Okay, you know the drill by now, every health post comes with a few “common sense” disclaimers that I still need to say. 😀 First, this is not meant to be taken as medical advice. The internet is not your doctor. Second, while I strongly believe in “alternative medicine,” I also just as strongly believe in the power of modern medicine. I feel that the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Don’t quit any medications that you’re taking without talking to your doctor first, and keep your doc in the loop when you decide to try something else. Finally, while many people have seen benefits from these therapies, there’s no guarantee that all (or any) of them will work for you. Everyone is different. Got it? Good. Let’s check out the alternative therapies that I’m looking into!
5 Alternative Therapies to Look Into Now
Reiki is an ancient healing method that focuses on the flow of life energy within the human body. It is believed that when these life forces are slowed down, the body becomes ill. Reiki helps to release the flow of these forces, effectively healing many types of illness within the body.
The principals of Reiki have been used for thousands of years; however, the actual therapy was discovered and developed in Japan in the late 1800’s by Dr. Mikao Usui. The practice and teachings of Reiki nearly vanished during WWII, but managed to survive due to a few remaining masters. Mrs. Hawayo Takata brought the practice of Reiki to the United States and it has grown in popularity among Western culture ever since.
What happens during a Reiki Healing session?
Before your healing session with a Reiki practitioner, you’ll be asked to take off all of your jewelry, wash yourself, then enter a meditative state of mind (that will be the trickiest part for me since my mind never shuts off). Your practitioner will have done all of the above before your session. Why do this? Basically, it’s supposed to remove other auras or barriers to healing.
During the session, you’ll lay quietly on the floor or a table. The practitioner begins by evening out your aura. He’ll sit next to your with one hand on his own sacrum, and the other held several inches above your body, then slowly begin to move his hand from your head to your feet. He then returns his hand to your head by following a circular path along the side of their body. This is repeated several times. The basic Reiki technique provides healing and relaxation to the body as a whole. Specific movements can focus on locations in the body, such as the head, chest, abdomen and back. Each position focuses on stimulating the life forces within that particular part of the body. Check out this video to learn more:
What conditions can benefit from Reiki?
Some of the health conditions helped by Reiki include sinus problems, allergies, colds, nausea, heartburn, gastrointestinal difficulties, metabolism, sexual problems, weight conditions, back pain and adrenal gland conditions.
Using Reiki during an illness or following an operation is believed to increase the body’s ability to heal itself, lesson pain and help you relax. Used regularly, Reiki therapy is said to increase the body’s basic defenses against disease and illness. It may help the body rebound quicker from injuries and keep away depression and other mental illnesses.
2. Alexander Technique
Back pain, hip pain, neck and shoulder pain…these are all a part of my daily life! An alternative therapy known as the Alexander Technique teaches proper posture and body positioning to minimize or eliminate chronic pain. The technique was designed by F.M. Alexander, an Australian actor who found himself suffering from laryngitis before every performance. After seeing countless doctors and still finding no cure, he realized that his problem actually stemmed from tension in his body. He developed a technique to alleviate his body tension, curing his laryngitis. At the request of friends and doctors, Mr. Alexander spent the next several decades perfecting his technique and teaching it to others.
How does the Alexander Technique work?
Today the Alexander Technique is widely recognized by European physicians as an effective treatment for back and shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and general body tension issues. Thousands of people, including many prominent performers, claim to have benefited from taking lessons in the technique. Basically, we as humans are just wretched at walking, standing and sitting. Seriously, we’re doing it all wrong! Right now, I’m all hunched over and can feel the pull in my lower back. I “fix” it and, ten minutes later, find that I’m sitting in yet another weird position without even realizing I’m doing it.
All this bad sitting, standing and walking results in tension throughout your body, especially up and down the spine, which in turn causes pain and other issues. The position of your head relaxes or strains the entire spinal column. Holding it in an awkward position, or holding it too far back or too far forward, results in strain and compression from the head to the tail bone. The Alexander Technique teaches to keep the head in its natural location, uncompressing the spine and positioning the body appropriately.
During initial Alexander Technique lessons, the instructor observes your movements as you perform typical functions like sitting and walking. If you are a musician, artist, actor, athlete or other performer, the instructor will observe these actions as well. Part of the observation usually involves the instructor placing their hands on different locations, such as your neck and back, to feel how muscles are tensing during movements.
Once the instructor has seen your typical movements of the student, he or she can teach you better ways of moving that are more natural and will reduce the tension in your body. When the tension issues are resolved, the idea is that your movements and performances will be improved and your pain may even vanish.
3. Bowen Technique
The Bowen Technique is a fairly well-accepted alternative therapy for pain relief developed in the 1950s by another Australian, this time a therapist named Tom Bowen. Through a process known as challenging muscles, pain is relieved by resetting the muscles to their natural position. Bowen is not intrusive, does not adjust any parts of the body by force and is useful for patients of any age and condition. Through the course of Bowen’s treatments, he sensed vibrations in the muscles and their connecting tissues. By studying these tensions he determined locations to manipulate for effective pain relief.
How does the Bowen Technique work?
A typical Bowen treatment session requires you to lie on a massage table while the practitioner uses his or her thumbs and fingers to lightly press on your muscles. The fingers are then moved in a rolling motion on the muscle, which helps the muscle to reset itself. Often, the therapist will leave the room in between portions of the treatment to give your muscles time to completely adjust. The muscles surrounding the spine are usually a primary focus of the treatment. Once these have adjusted, pain tends to be centralized in the location of the actual source. Treatment can then be focused on those locations as well.
Pain relief is often quick, sometimes happening after the first session, especially for people with “temporary” pain (such as from a pulled or overworked muscle). Long term conditions typically respond after just a few treatments. Since Bowen is a gentle technique, it can be used on patients of all ages, including children (check with your pediatrician first, though).
Some of the conditions that Bowen has successfully treated include:
- Back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Sports injuries
- Headaches & migraines
- Digestive problems
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Balance Problems
Bowen is a complimentary treatment to other medical practices. It is not meant to be used alone, except in patients needing only general care. It’s meant to be used together with physical therapy, medical procedures or other alternative therapies.
4. Craniosacral Therapy
CranioSacral Therapy has kind of a freaky ring to it, but it’s actually a big part of modern massage and chiropractic treatment. Basically, it’s is a method of manipulating the skull and spine to alleviate built up stress in your body. The therapy is based on the Breath of Life theory. Similar to Qi in Chinese medicine, the Breath of Life is considered to be a series of rhythms within our bodies that regulate the body’s operations. When the Breath of Life is interrupted illness and pain can occur.
Here’s where it gets a little more mystical. If you’re not a fan of that sort of thing, don’t leave yet, because it’ll get scientific again in a moment. You know how you experience a myriad of physical traumas throughout life? I’m talking everything from scraping your knee to massive injuries. Well, CranioSacral therapy follows the idea that every one of these traumas- from tiny to astronomical- creates a certain amount of inertia, essentially locking patters into place that restrict your natural flow and motion. The belief goes that inertia restricts the body’s ability to heal itself, to relax and to fight off the problems from future stress and injury. Emotional issues and lack of energy are also problems we can encounter when we have too much inertia built up.
CranioSacral Therapy alleviates the inertia through the manipulation of the bones of the skull and their relationship to the spine. This manipulation is done with a very light touch, as light as the weight of a nickel at times. It often results in a state of relaxation and meditation, sometimes followed by a refreshing burst of energy. Some patients even fall asleep during the treatment.
Back to the science aspect. The relationship between the skull, the spine and overall well-being was initially discovered by Dr. William Sutherland in the early 20th century. Before then, scientists believed that the skull bones of adults were completely fused and there was no movement between them. Dr. Sutherland realized that this was not the case, that indeed a small amount of movement continues to occur after the skull bones have fused.
Sutherland confirmed his theory through his own experiments in which he created headaches (ouch, now that’s dedication) and overall symptoms of illness by wrapping bandages tightly around his skull in certain patterns (do not try that yourself!). He also discovered that other patterns of skull pressure not only relieved pain, but were accompanied by feelings of general well-being. It makes sense if you think about it. When I have certain types of migraines, squeezing my head actually relieves them a bit. In fact, I often ask people to “squish my head, please!”
Through the rest of his career, Sutherland continued to build on his theories and discovered that this subtle movement could be manipulated and improved with a sensitive touch. Dr. Sutherland’s therapy was initially known as “cranial osteopathy.” Years later, Dr. John Upledger built upon the therapy and brought it to non-osteopathic practitioners. He encountered a lot of opposition when he used the word “osteopathy,” so he coined the current term CranioSacral Therapy.
Today CarnioSacral Therapy is often an integral part of massage therapy, chiropractic care and physical therapy. It has become widely accepted as a method of relieving stress and integrating modern medical practices into the overall whole union of mind, body and spirit.
Here’s one you might have heard of, even if you don’t realize it. Kinesiology is the science of muscle movement. It is a widely acknowledged practice and includes a vast collection of different practices, from the mainstream to the controversial. It’s is often integrated into other forms of medical practice, both modern and traditional. When your doctor or other healthcare practitioner uses applied kinesiology, he’s looking for weakness in muscles throughout your body. The weakness can indicate a variety of underlying conditions.
Kinesiology uses concepts similar to those of ancient Chinese medicine.It is believed that there are channels, or meridians, that carry energy. These pathways connect different parts of the body to other parts. Through the muscle testing, the channels that are blocked or slowed in their flow are made evident.
How does kinesiology work?
When a weak muscle is found, your practitioner will manipulate the corresponding pressure point. This will usually immediately produce strength in the weak muscle again. The best part? This strength doesn’t just vanish, but actually remains for a significant length of time if not indefinitely.
Another focus is on muscle pain. Often when muscles hurt, the problem isn’t the muscle itself but the opposing muscle. When a muscle isn’t able to do its part, the other muscles must work harder which produces pain and other problems. By targeting the opposing muscle, rather than the muscle that hurts, therapists can strengthen the weak spots and relieve the physical symptoms. It makes sense if you think about it. When, say, your forearm muscle is weak, you use your upper arm muscles more. As time goes on, your upper arm will start to hurt a lot more than your forearm! Another example: My chiropractor told me that a good chunk of my back pain wasn’t coming from my back problems but from my hip bursitis.
Kinesiology is a widely practiced alternative therapy that is frequently integrated into other alternative and mainstream therapies. From chiropractic care to acupuncture, properly done kinesiology can give clues to a practitioner about areas of the patient’s body that needs extra attention.
Have you tried any of these alternative therapies? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!