When considering alternative medicine, there are five classifications generally used to categorize the different disciplines and approaches involved. Rarely is only one approach used, most alternative medicine practitioners combine elements from two or more disciplines. The theory behind the approach and the practice of the theory is what differentiates each type of alternative medicine. To determine which approach is most appropriate for your situation, visit your physician or ask a doctor online.
Alternative Medical Systems
Alternative medical systems are practices which are based on philosophies different from, and much more ancient than mainstream Western medicine. Most of these systems have histories that can be traced back as far as 5000 years.
- Chinese Medicine has a five millennia history. The belief is that humans possess an energy referred to as “qi”. This energy should flow freely throughout the body. Illness and other conditions are a result of internal and external factors, as well as lifestyle choices, that disrupt this energy flow. Therapy is focused on restoring the proper energy flow. Acupuncture, acupressure, massage and herbal remedies are employed.
- Ayurveda began in India about 5000 years ago. Ayurvedic medical practitioners view the mind and body as a whole and seek to restore balance. The emphasis is on preventing illness and maintaining good health through lifestyle changes, meditation, yoga and good dietary habits. Herbal remedies are also sometimes prescribed.
- Homeopathic medicine is based on the philosophy that the body is able to bring healing to itself. Symptoms of illness are viewed as normal responses of a body attempting to return to a healthy state. Potentiated substances in pill or liquid form are administered to enhance and stimulate the body’s natural healing process. Before treating any illness with these substances, seek medical advice.
- Naturopathy is also based on the belief in the body’s ability to naturally heal itself. Treatment of illness and disease prevention are accomplished through healthy lifestyle habits, nutritional therapy and use of herbal remedies. Other modalities such as acupuncture may also be used.
Mind and Body Practices
Mind and body practices are a very large, very diverse group of techniques and procedures performed by professionally trained teachers or practitioners. Many of these are now used in hospitals and clinics and have become an integral part of many mainstream medical practices.
This includes vitamins, minerals, herbs and probiotics. Natural products, or biological based therapies, have been widely studied in the past few decades. They are used in many different disciplines of alternative medicine. To determine which products might benefit you, seek medical advice.
Body Based and Manipulation Techniques
These methods focus on movement and re-alignment of different areas of the body in order to treat disorders and disease. Examples include chiropractic medicine, massage therapy, Tai chi and movement therapies. Many of these practices are validated through a great number of clinical studies.
Energy Based Therapies
Energy based therapies focus on manipulating the energy fields within and without the body. Examples are magnetic field therapy, therapeutic touch and Reiki.