Alternative medicine, also known as alternative therapies, lie outside the realm of conventional medicine. An alternative therapy is any intervention that: is not reimbursable by most health insurance providers in the United States, is not well supported by scientific tests establishing safety and effectiveness, and is not taught by most medical schools in the United States. They are also called adjunctive, unconventional, or unorthodox therapies.
There are many general areas of alternative medicine. This paper will outline just five of those general areas, and give examples of each. One area of alternative therapy is alternative systems of medical practice. One example of this kind of alternative therapy is acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of relieving pain and treating a variety of diseases by inserting needles into various parts of the body. Insertion of the needles produces a momentary pinching feeling.
This feeling quickly disappears and may be replaced by occasional tingling or a sense of numbness, heaviness, or soreness while the needles are in place. Acupuncture is used to relieve pain and to treat various conditions, including arthritis, asthma, migraine, ulcers, eye diseases, and some mental illnesses. Another example of alternative systems of medical practice is ayurveda. This is a traditional Hindu system of improving health by using herbs, diet, meditation, massage, and yoga to stimulate the body to make its own natural drugs.
Strictly speaking, it is not a treatment. Rather, it is an entire medical system whose goal is the prevention of disease through the proper balance of three “irreducible principles” at work in the body. Ayurveda medicine encompasses a wide range of treatments and lifestyle measures, including dietary recommendations, massage, medicinal herbs, and the meditation and breathing techniques of yoga. It is designed to bring a persons “tridosha”, or basic metabolic type, into balance.
Mind-body interventions is another type of alternative medicine. An example of this includes meditation. Meditation is a deliberate suspension of the stream of a consciousness that usually occupies the mind. Its primary goal is to induce mental tranquillity and physical relaxation. There are many different approaches to meditation, each with its own specialized techniques. Approaches to meditation fall into three major categories. They are transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, and breath meditation. The calming mental exercises of meditation are a proven antidote for stress, tension, anxiety, and panic. Meditation is also a scientifically verified way to reduce high blood pressure and relieve chronic pain.
Many people find it helpful for headaches and respiratory problems such as emphysema and asthma. Biofeedback is another example of mind-body interventions. Biofeedback is a specialized training that allows people to gain control over physiological reactions that are ordinarily unconscious and automatic. It is the use of special devices to convey information about heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, muscle relaxation, and the like to enable a person to learn to consciously control these medically important functions.
Biofeedback is not a passive treatment. It requires a persons intensive participation as they learn to control such normally involuntary functions as heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, skin temperature, muscle tension, breathing, and digestion. A third type of alternative medicine is manual healing methods. An example of one of these methods is chiropractic. Chiropractic is a system of health care that emphasizes the relationship between structure and function in the body.
Doctors of chiropractic believe that good health depends, in part, on the normal alignment of the body’s parts, and that misalignment can be a significant factor in illness. Proper alignment of the spine is considered to be of critical importance because of its central role in the function of the nervous system.