Many types of alternative therapies (also called complementary medicine or integrative medicine) come from traditional medicine practices of particular cultures and have been used for hundreds or thousands of years. Some are hands on, some hands off; for some, you work with a trained practitioner, and for others you can DIY. You’ll find a wide variety of therapies to explore.
Even though many of them haven’t been proven through controlled clinical trials to do what they say they can do, all of these alternative therapies have proponents who swear by them. You may discover that one of these therapies works for you, even if science can’t (yet) explain it.
(Note that this is not a medical website and I am not a doctor. This article is intended only as a brief introduction to a variety of therapies, and is not an endorsement of any or all of them. Enjoy!)
What it is: Small needles are placed in the skin at acupuncture points to address different issues.
May be especially helpful for: pain relief, especially back and joint pain.
What it is: Like acupuncture, acupressure is centered around working with the acupuncture points on the body. Unlike acupuncture, needles aren’t used. Practitioners often use their hands and fingers instead.
May be especially helpful for: pain relief, including headaches and stomach aches
What it is: Massage is already known as a stress reliever and is often seen as a luxury or a treat, but deliberate bodywork can do much more than simply aid relaxation.
May be especially helpful for: muscle pain and tightness, stress reduction, increased circulation
What it is: A Reiki practitioner lightly place their hands on different areas of your body to manipulate your energy and improve health. Unlike a typical massage, with reiki you stay fully clothed.
May be especially helpful for: reducing pain and anxiety
What it is: Doctors of Chiropractic often focus on the health of the spine and make “adjustments” in order to affect other parts of the body.
May be especially helpful for: back and neck pain, headaches, arthritis
What it is: A system of evaluation involving “muscle challenges,” “chemical challenges,” and “emotional challenges” followed by a treatment plan that avoids drugs and surgery.
May be especially helpful for: relieving emotional stress, addressing emotional issues
What it is: In this method of “somatic education,” a practitioner works with a student to help them become aware of the way they habitually move and how that might be affecting their quality of life. The practitioner then leads the student through slow, repeated movements to replace undesirable movements with more beneficial movements.
May be especially helpful for: improving coordination and flexibility, increasing range of motion, reducing pain
What it is: Like Feldenkrais, this technique is more about education than direct physical or energetic manipulation. The instructor helps the student become aware of when they respond to situations by tensing up so they can unlearn that response. Alignment and coordination are focuses of this technique.
May be especially helpful for: reducing chronic tension, improved posture and coordination
Trager psychophysical integration
What it is: Another method of somatic education, the Trager approach involves both a passive component (where the practitioner gently manipulates the body to teach the student how to move with more ease and less tension) and an active component (where the student learns some simple movements know as Mentastics).
May be especially helpful for: increasing ease and range of motion, promoting relaxation
What it is: Cups are placed on the skin so that the air is drawn out and a suction effect occurs, encouraging blood flow, chi movement, and toxin removal. “Wet cupping” involves controlled bloodletting, while “dry cupping” doesn’t.
May be especially helpful for: alleviating back and neck pain, addressing high blood pressure, reducing stress
What it is: Cones or bundles of “moxa” – dried plant materials – are burnt on or near the skin, manipulating the body’s chi.
May be especially helpful for: relieving the pain from arthritis, addressing digestion problems
What it is: Plant-based homeopathy “remedies” are created to address a variety of physical and psychiatric ailments, using the concept of the Law of Similars in which “like cures like.”
May be especially helpful for: chronic issues like fatigue and stress
Bach flower remedies
What it is: There are 38 of these patented “remedies” or “essences” made from flowers, each of which is intended to treat different emotional states like jealousy or lack of self confidence. To use the remedies, add a couple drops to spring water and drink.
May be especially helpful for: ridding unwanted negative emotions and replacing them with positive emotions
What it is: This general term encompasses medical practices that use plants to cure physical and emotional problems. Different practices of herbal medicine have developed in China, India, Indonesia, and in the Americas among the native peoples.
May be especially helpful for: improving skin condition, addressing digestive problems, relieving headaches and pain
What it is: The use of aromatic oils from plants and flowers to improve mental well-being. Oils can be massaged into the skin or simply inhaled to be effective.
May be especially helpful for: relieving pain, improving mood, focusing the mind
What it is: A music therapist works with you to tackle emotional and cognitive problems through music. That can mean listening to particular types of music or it can mean actually singing and playing instruments. It may be effective for certain populations, including people on the Autism Spectrum, those with Alzheimer’s, and children with emotional problems.
May be especially helpful for: aiding rehabilitation after a long illness, managing pain
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy
What it is: A hypnotherapist can help you break a bad habit or build a new habit by helping get you into a hypnotic state where appropriate goals are suggested to you. After coming out of hypnosis, you follow up with action to support those goals.
May be especially helpful for: breaking bad habits like smoking, overeating, biting nails, and wetting the bed, or building good habits like brushing teeth and exercising; also used for pain relief