Alternative therapies and their benefits
There are few things in life as important as our health.
As incredible as modern medicine is, it’s also great that there are alternative therapies we can consider when looking for ways to keep ourselves healthy or address certain concerns we may have. While some may sound weird and wonderful if you haven’t come across them before, it’s worth remembering that just because something is ‘alternative’ does not mean it isn’t valid. In fact, often you will find that alternative therapies are not strictly alternative at all but are more complementary and can be used alongside traditional medicine. The below examples highlight some complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs) that you might like to try.
During a treatment, a therapist will place cups – typically made from glass or silicone – on parts of your skin to create suction and form a vacuum. This is thought to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow and relaxation by offering similar effects to a deep tissue massage. Few studies have been done on cupping, but the practice dates back to 1550 BC.
Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into certain points along your body to stimulate nerves and muscles to release pain-relieving chemicals. The needles are not like those used during an injection, but much, much finer. In fact, you may not even feel them being inserted.
Aimed at improving your circulation, Gua Sha involves scraping your skin with a smooth-edged massage tool to increase blood flow. Practitioners believe it can help reduce inflammation, promote healing and break up energy to flow better around the body. It is typically done on the back, buttocks, neck, arms and legs and can also be used on the face if milder pressure is applied.
Massage therapy is one of the most common and sought out alternative therapies. You might have taken massage for granted, but the benefits of massage have been well documented and include pain relief, improved muscle flexibility, better blood flow, relaxation and recovery from fatigue. There are many different types of massage that focus on different areas of your body and different concerns. You might choose a full body Swedish traditional massage to help with relaxation for example, or a back and neck massage to help with stiffness and soreness in these areas.1
Originating in Japan, Reiki is a technique that relies upon the laying of hands along different parts of the body to increase energy flow, aid relaxation and reduce stress. It is said to involve the transfer of energy from a practitioners hands to their patient and while it is an alternative therapy, there are some hospitals in America and Europe that offer it. It has been backed by numerous studies that suggest it may help with pain reduction.2
Aromatherapy relies on the essential oils from plants to stimulate or relax your body and promote healing, mood improvement, better sleep and more. True aromatherapy is done under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist who understands the benefits of each oil, but also knows the contraindications and when to avoid using them. The smell, or aroma, of certain oils has been shown to have specific effects, such as the ability of lavender to promote sleep, or chamomile to promote relaxation.3
A qualified hypnotherapist will be able to put you in a state of deep relaxation where it is believed you can access your subconscious thoughts and behaviours. The aim of this is to address issues and increase your own self-awareness or break certain patterns. People commonly see a hypnotherapist for help with losing weight or stopping smoking, for example.
While alternative or complementary therapies are not always offered by traditional healthcare providers as part of their service, they do recognise the popularity of them and offer guidance on how to find a good practitioner for your chosen therapy. It’s also worth speaking to your GP who might be able to recommend who to see, and whether there may be any side effects to the treatment you are considering. In most cases though, alternative and complementary therapies are safe for the majority of people and if you are prepared to try them, you might just find that they work for you.