You may or may not already have tried more alternative healing practices. It was once that alternative healing practices were widely scoffed at, but now the tables have turned and a good deal of people are now dipping their toes into the untraditional healing practices trend. For those unfamiliar with the practices, holistic healing—aka alternative medicine—are any form of healing or medicine that is not deemed “traditional” by Western standards. When used in tandem with Western medicine, they are called “complementary practices”—they are only considered “alternative” when used instead of Western medicine.
Every five years, the National Health Interview Survey assesses how Americans embrace complementary and holistic approaches. The most recent survey taken in 2012 indicates that similar to previous years, 33.2% of American adults use complementary health practices. However, this study did indicate a significant increase in out-of-pocket dollars spent on chiropractic and acupuncture, which suggests that Americans may be relying more and more on holistic practices than ever before. We have a feeling that many others from around the globe are also engaging in their practices too!
This means that if you haven’t gotten on the holistic bandwagon, it may be time to at least learn about your options. From treating anxiety to lower-back pain to tension headaches, these practices have been called natural cure-alls. Scroll through to find out more about five of the top holistic healing practices and how they may help you.
Chances are you’ve had a co-worker or friend who has suffered from such terrible headaches that they’ve gone to get acupuncture—and now swear by it. The process of using needles to stimulate key areas of the body to release energy was actually founded in China many years ago. A 2005 study in the British Medical Journal found that the use of acupuncture was actually able to reduce the number of tension headaches in patients by almost one half. The treatment is also more generally thought to help ease chronic pain, especially in cancer patients when used in conjunction with other therapies.
Aromatherapy harnesses our sense of smell to calm the body. By breathing in different essential oils, our body can actually feel a sense of calm in both brain and body. One key study shows that lavender oil can actually improve a patient’s pain tolerance after surgery. After giving one control group just pain medicine and another pain medicine with a few drops of lavender oil, those who were supplemented with lavender oil saw a difference in how much they were able to tolerate their level of pain post-surgery. Lavender oil is also associated with treating both anxiety and depression—one study shows that those who breathed in the smell of lavender for three minutes had decreased anxiety scores and experienced a lift in mood afterwards.
This practice revolves around how the body’s structure—usually the spine—affects the rest of your body’s functions. Often times, spinal adjustments or tweaks are made to alleviate pain in other areas. Researchers believe chiropractic may treat a variety of ailments including low-back pain, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches. A 2013 study found that chiropractic therapy decreased pain and improved function in patients 18 to 35 when used alongside standard medical care.
Naturopathic medicine is a combination of traditional methods and approaches from 19th-century Europe that “heal” with nature. This practice looks to dietary and lifestyle changes, taking herbs and dietary supplements, and using acupuncture and exercise to keep your body healthy. No specific studies prove the overall effectiveness of naturopathy, but it’s believed to help with migraines, diabetes, asthma and depression, among other things.
This is a Japanese method for relaxation that relies on the concept that a “life force energy” flows inside of us, which is why we are alive. The belief is that when the energy is low, we are weak and unhealthy, but when it is high, we have a larger probability of being healthy and finding happiness. Reiki is a form of healing—a practitioner places their hands on or near a person’s body to eliminate the negative energy that causes us to feel sick. A study in Research in Gerontological Nursing found that Reiki was successful in improving symptoms of pain, depression and anxiety in older adults residing in community housing.
PHOTO: Melissa Ambrosini