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It was once believed that there was no way for the scientific world of modern healthcare to share a space with its ancient medical predecessors. Recent years, however, have seen a revitalization of holistic and alternative health practices, many of which have been integrated into the broader medical spectrum of patient care. These practices are often referred to as “complementary medicine.” Complementary medical techniques (such as acupuncture, healing touch, yoga, and herbal supplementation) provide the holistic, whole-body approach to wellness that traditional medicine tends to miss. Whereas science-based western medicine focuses on resolving a particular physiological symptom, complementary medical beliefs revolve around the entire person, concerning mental and spiritual health as well as physical wellness.

This resurgence of ancient practices has been remarkably successful. While few scientific studies have been done, the anecdotal evidence supporting these therapies has been astounding, so much so that many private health insurances cover some of these services. An increasing number of healthcare providers have begun to utilize a network of complementary treatments, such as those listed below, to help offer their patients the best care possible.

 

Acupuncture

This is a 3000-year-old healing arts practice involving the strategic placement of small needles along “meridian lines” of the body. The stimulation of nerves along these lines is touted to restore balance to the body, which then alleviates symptoms. Acupuncture is especially effective against chronic pain, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, and allergy symptoms. It is very safe, and certified practitioners use only single-use needles.

 

Healing Touch

With the energy lines utilized by acupuncturists, healing touch therapists use massage and skin stimulation techniques to achieve wellness and relieve symptoms. Healing touch therapy is noted to reduce side effects like pain and nausea for chemotherapy patients, and it can also help treat depression and insomnia.

 

Yoga and Guided Meditation

The rhythmic stretching, breathing, and mind-focusing skills taught by this ancient Ayurvedic practice have become extremely popular in the west in recent years, especially for stress relief and spiritual elevation.

 

Herbal Supplementation

Many people feel that the risks and side effects of medications should be avoided. Herbal supplements can sometimes safely replace meds, especially for non life-threatening conditions like stress, pain, or sleeplessness. What’s more, many herbs are being tested for efficacy with controlled studies, which will certainly help support their integration into mainstream medicine.

 

While complementary medicine will almost certainly play an important role in the future of healthcare, it’s important to remember that “natural” does not automatically mean “safe.” Always check with your physician before incorporating any alternative therapies into your healthcare routine, especially if you are taking medication or recovering from an injury.