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Alternative Therapies Glossary

Acupuncture ("AK-yoo-pungk-cher") - A method of healing developed in China at least 2,000 years ago. Today, acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.

Aromatherapy ("ah-roam-uh-THER-ah-py") - involves the use of essential oils (extracts or essences) from flowers, herbs, and trees to promote health and well-being. CAUTION: In their pure state, certain oils can cause irritation, toxic reaction, or skinburn. These oils call for careful and expert application.

Ayurveda ("ah-yur-VAY-dah") - This system that has been practiced primarily in the Indian subcontinent for 5,000 years. Ayurveda includes diet and herbal remedies and emphasizes the use of body, mind, and spirit in disease prevention and treatment.

Bates Method - Relaxation exercises for eye disorders such as glaucoma, squint, and more. It was devised by William H. Bates.

Bio Cranial System - The Bio Cranial System addresses a person's dysfunctions and their cranial (and therefore spinal) status, in order to restore maximum function to your whole system. It is probably the most holistic health care system in existence, in that it looks at the total person, and not diseases or disease names. (Read more here.)

Chiropractic ("kie-roh-PRAC-tic") - Focuses on the relationship between bodily structure (primarily that of the spine) and function, and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. Chiropractors use manipulative therapy as an integral treatment tool.

Dietary supplements - Congress defined the term "dietary supplement" in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. "A dietary supplement is a product (other than tobacco) taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. Dietary ingredients may include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, and metabolites. Dietary supplements come in many forms, including extracts, concentrates, tablets, capsules, gel caps, liquids, and powders". They have special requirements for labeling. Under DSHEA, dietary supplements are considered foods, not drugs.

Environmental Therapies - Used in treating health conditions caused by environment such as allergies and eczema. Factors such as dust, molds, chemicals, and certain foods may cause allergic reactions that can dramatically influence your health ranging from asthma and hay fever to headaches and depression.

Gestalt Therapy - Developed by Fritz Perls, this humanistic approach to healing promotes personal growth through self-awareness. Well-known techniques include emphasizing the client's self-awareness by making him or her speak continually in the present tense and in the first person. Useful in treating anxiety, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, and insomnia.

Homeopathic ("home-ee-oh-PATH-ic") - In homeopathic medicine, there is a belief that "like cures like," meaning that small, highly diluted quantities of medicinal substances are given to cure symptoms, when the same substances given at higher or more concentrated doses would actually cause those symptoms.

Hydrotherapy - The therapeutic use of water, ice, steam, and hot and cold temperatures to maintain and restore health. Good for labor pain and childbirth, muscle problems, rheumatism, stress and tension. Treatments include full body immersion, steam baths, saunas, sitz baths, and hot, and/or cold compresses. Hydortherapy has been used to treat disease and injury by many different cultures, including the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Hebrews, Hindus, Chinese, and Native Americans. Contrast therapies are those that alternative between hot and cold water in the same treatment.
CAUTIONS: Hyperthermia (a fever-induction therapy) can be hazardous for certain people and conditions, and should only be performed under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
Those who suffer from eczema and other skin conditions, or acute heart disease, should avoid neutral bathing (full immersion therapy that submerges the body up to the neck in water from 92 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or longer).

Massage Therapy - See article on this site.

Naturopathic ("nay-chur-o-PATH-ic") - Naturopathic medicine proposes that there is a healing power in the body that establishes, maintains, and restores health. Practitioners work with the patient with a goal of supporting this power, through treatments such as nutrition and lifestyle counseling, dietary supplements, medicinal plants, exercise, homeopathy, and treatments from traditional Chinese medicine.

Osteopathic ("ahs-tee-oh-PATH-ic") - medicine is a form of conventional medicine that, in part, emphasizes diseases arising in the musculoskeletal system. There is an underlying belief that all of the body's systems work together, and disturbances in one system may affect function elsewhere in the body. Some osteopathic physicians practice osteopathic manipulation, a full-body system of hands-on techniques to alleviate pain, restore function, and promote health and well-being.

CRANIAL OSTEOPATHY - Specialist technique in which the bones of the skull are manipulated. Useful for childbirth pains, ADD, ADHD, learning difficulties, sinus conditions, TMJ and tinnitus.

CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY (CST) - Adapted form of cranial osteopathy.

Qi gong ("chee-GUNG") - a component of traditional Chinese medicine that combines movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing to enhance the flow of qi (an ancient term given to what is believed to be vital energy) in the body, improve blood circulation, and enhance immune function.

SHIATSU - Stimulating the vital points along the body's meridians in order to encourage healing and maintaining good health.

Therapeutic Touch - is derived from an ancient technique called laying-on of hands. It is based on the premise that it is the healing force of the therapist (unlike Reiki) that affects the patient's recovery; healing is promoted when the body's energies are in balance; and, by passing their hands over the patient, healers can identify energy imbalances.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) - is the current name for an ancient system of health care from China. TCM is based on a concept of balanced qi (pronounced "chee"), or vital energy, that is believed to flow throughout the body. Qi is proposed to regulate a person's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming imbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and remedial massage.

YOGA - Spiritual and physical exercises to encourage health and well-being. Useful for conditions such as anxiety, arthritis, headache, migraine, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

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