Acupuncture uses subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for thousands of years which focus on you as an individual, not your illness. All symptoms are seen in relation to each other, and treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to affect the flow of your body’s qi, or vital energy. Acupuncturists insert very fine needles at precisely located points to connect with your body’s qi. They will decide which points are right for you after a detailed consultation covering every aspect of your health and lifestyle. The aim is to direct the flow of qi to trigger your body’s healing response and to restore physical, emotional and mental equilibrium. Treatment is designed to affect your whole being as well as your symptoms so, as the condition being treated improves, you may notice other health problems resolve and an increased feeling of wellbeing. People often use acupuncture to relieve specific aches and pains, such as osteoarthritis of the knee, headaches and low back pain, or for common health problems like an overactive bladder.
The Alexander Technique is a skill for self-development, teaching you to change long-standing habits that cause unnecessary tension in everything you do. Whatever your age or ability, the Technique can help boost your performance in any activity, and relieve the pain and stress caused by postural habits, like slouching or rounded shoulders. Working with your teacher, you will learn to recognise your usual reactions to the stresses of life. You will find out how you have been contributing to your problems, how to prevent them and regain control.
Anthroposophical medicine is an extension of orthodox medical practice. It does not see illness as an accident or mechanical breakdown, but as something connected to the whole person and potentially positive. If met and treated in an appropriate way, illness may bring opportunities for a new balance in your life. Anthroposophical doctors are fully qualified in conventional medicine. In addition to medical techniques and treatment, this holistic approach may include dietary and nutritional therapy, rhythmic massage, artistic therapies (painting, sculpture, eurythmy, music, speech), hydrotherapy and counselling. Each person is seen as a unique individual with a spiritual as well as a physical and mental constitution, and needs to be treated accordingly.
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils to help deal with everyday stresses and emotional well-being. Essential oils, extracted from plants, are thought to possess distinctive properties, which may be used to improve overall emotional and spiritual health imbuing the user with a sense of relaxation and calmness. In a typical aromatherapy session, the aromatherapist will ask questions about previous medical history, general health, wellbeing and lifestyle. This helps the practitioner to choose and blend the safest and most appropriate essential oils for the individual. The oils may be applied in combination with massage or the aromatherapist may suggest other methods. Aromatherapy may be found to be helpful to those wanting to reduce everyday stress and so help with the ability to cope, relax and sleep. As well as being used in individual therapy sessions and at home, it is also used in a variety of settings, including hospitals and hospices.
Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of holistic health care that originated in India several thousand years ago, which is as much concerned with treating disease as it is with preventing ill-health and enhancing the quality of life. Ayurveda places particular emphasis on the individual constitution (prakriti) of every being, which is determined by the unique combination of doshas, genetic factors as well as the health, nutrition and lifestyle of your parents. Prakriti determines an individual’s susceptibility to different diseases and has an influence on their course and development as well as on the complications that could arise and the prognosis. Treatment is always tailor-made to the individual and can include simple diet and lifestyle advice, food supplements or medicines, physical treatments like full-body massage or local applications, psychological and emotional consulting, meditation, yoga or other forms of subtle therapies.
In all types of massage therapy, the intention is to relax the soft tissues, increase delivery of blood and oxygen to the massaged areas, warm them, and help the body to relax. In a typical massage therapy session, the practitioner will discuss symptoms, medical history and the desired results. The practitioner generally performs some evaluation through touch before beginning the massage. Oil or powder help reduce friction on the skin and the therapist may use other aids, such as ice, heat, fragrances, or machines. Massage may be found to bring relief from everyday aches, reduce stress, increase relaxation, address feelings of anxiety and tension, and aid general wellness. It can also be used in support of other therapies to assist in the rehabilitation of muscular injuries.
Chiropractic specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of conditions that are due to problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves, especially related to the spine. Chiropractic treatment mainly involves safe, specific spinal manipulation to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly. In addition to manipulation, chiropractors may use a variety of techniques including ice, heat, ultrasound and exercise, as well as advice about posture and lifestyle. Chiropractors are concerned with the framework of bones and muscles that support the body (the musculoskeletal system) and the problems associated with it caused by accident, stress, lack of exercise, poor posture, illness and every day wear and tear. There are many chiropractic approaches and techniques used around the world. The McTimoney approach, for example, is typified by a whole body assessment and swift, light force adjustments, which makes it a comfortable treatment to receive.
Healing stretches back thousands of years. Most Healers view their work as a natural and purposeful energy based process which is believed to help relieve everyday stress, provide a sense of physical and emotional revitalisation and on some occasions bring about a deep sense of peace. Each healing session will vary according to the needs of the client. The client remains fully clothed and may be seated or lying down. Healers work with a conscious intention to help and support and the process focuses on using the hands, placed on or above different areas of the body, often in sequence, in order to facilitate a natural sense of wholeness and wellbeing. Whilst there are some variations amongst Healers as to the philosophy and belief systems associated with it, most agree that Healing recognises the sanctity within the holistic nature of being.
Western Herbal Medicine is characterised by a person-centred approach, where the patient rather than the disease is the focus of the practitioner. The background to the patient’s condition is assessed through a thorough case history, taking account of family history, personal health history and lifestyle choices, and therapy is directed at the causes, not just the presenting symptoms. The practitioner uses the information obtained during the taking of the case history to make an assessment of the vitality and constitution of the patient. The choice of herbs in the prescription is based on this assessment. The prescription, rather than being based simply on the diagnosis of a disease or condition, is determined by an understanding of the significance of the signs and symptoms in that individual. Prescriptions may vary substantially between individual patients apparently presenting with a similar condition. Herbal treatment is commonly backed up by appropriate advice on lifestyle, particularly nutrition, and the practitioner works at all times to create an ambience of trust and positivism in the therapeutic relationship.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine which involves treating the individual with highly diluted substances, given mainly in tablet form, with the aim of triggering the body’s natural system of healing. It is based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’, that is, a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat similar symptoms. Homeopathic medicines, which homeopaths call remedies, are prepared at specialist pharmacies or manufactured using a process combining serial dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). Science has not been able to explain the mechanism of action of ultra-high dilutions in the body, but homeopathic medicines are gentle, safe to use and in widespread use across the world.
Hypnotherapy is a skilled communication aimed at directing a person’s imagination in a way that helps elicit changes in some perceptions, sensations, feelings, thoughts and behaviours. In a typical hypnotherapy session the hypnotherapist and client will discuss the intended alterations or therapeutic goals desired. The hypnotherapist will ask questions about previous medical history, general health and lifestyle to decide on the best approach for the individual. Hypnotherapy may be found to be helpful for those seeking relief from a range of problems and is used alongside a person’s own willpower and motivation to seek a desired goal. It is often used to help relieve anxiety, aid sleeping, help to address bedwetting, address attitudes to weight, and help clients achieve behavioural change to stop smoking. It may also help with minor skin conditions that are exacerbated by stress and confidence issues, and may also be used to enhance performance in areas such as sport and public speaking. Hypnotherapy may help people to cope with and manage the relief of perceived pain. Hypnotherapy has also been used with both adults and children to help manage the pain associated with irritable bowel. There is evidence to support its use in this condition for both adults and children and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Guidance (NICE) recommends the NHS should consider referring patients for hypnotherapy if their irritable bowel is persistent and has failed to respond to simple prescribed medicine.
Kinesiology was originally developed by an American chiropractor called George Goodheart. He found that by testing muscle response before and after he made chiropractic corrections he achieved better results for his patients. Over time he was able to make a connection between various muscles and acupuncture meridians. By testing these muscles the kinesiologist can get a picture of what is happening in your meridian system and how this may be affecting you. Kinesiology can be seen as a blend of the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and western techniques which enable a kinesiologist to treat you as an individual. Kinesiology uses a range of gentle yet extremely powerful techniques and allows the kinesiologist to draw on other healing techniques and modalities and integrate them into the session where appropriate and indicated by the muscle response.
Naturopathy is a philosophy and holistic healthcare system that recognises the healing power of nature present in all living things. As an holistic system it aims to promote and restore health by employing various natural treatment approaches that may include: naturopathic nutrition, lifestyle advice, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, naturopathic psychosocial support and other appropriate techniques. Naturopathic practitioners interpret presenting symptoms as the individual’s unique response to physical, emotional, environmental or genetic stress factors which can be identified by asking about your family history. The practitioner’s role is to identify these underlying causes and to promote the inherent self-healing power within the individual. Naturopathy is also a way of life and the naturopath will help empower individuals through education about lifestyle, diet and exercise.
Nutritional therapy is the application of nutrition science in the promotion of health, peak performance and individual care. Nutritional therapy practitioners use a wide range of tools to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances and understand how these may contribute to an individual’s symptoms and health concerns. This approach allows them to work with individuals to address nutritional balance and help support the body towards maintaining health. Nutritional therapy is relevant both for individuals looking to enhance their health and wellbeing and for those with chronic conditions wishing to work with or ‘consult’ a nutritional therapist in collaboration with other suitably qualified healthcare professionals. Practitioners consider each individual to be unique and recommend personalized nutrition and lifestyle programmes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Practitioners never recommend nutritional therapy as a replacement for medical advice and always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. They will also frequently work alongside a medical professional and will communicate with other healthcare professionals involved in the client’s care to explain any nutritional therapy programme that has been provided.
Osteopathy is a method of assessing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems. Osteopaths use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery. The principle of osteopathy is that the wellbeing of an individual relies on the way that bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and internal structures work with each other. An osteopath will take the time to understand their patient, and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle. This helps to make an accurate diagnosis of the causes of the pain or lack of function rather than just addressing the site of the condition. From that they formulate a treatment plan that will achieve the best outcome. Osteopaths frequently work alongside other health professionals, such as GPs, nurses and midwives as well as alternative medical practitioners. Osteopathy works well to complement other medical interventions including surgery and prescribed medication.
Radionics is a healing technique in which your natural intuitive faculties are used both to discover the energetic disturbances underlying illness and to encourage the return of a normal energetic field that supports health. The principles of radionic therapy were first discovered, in the early 20th century, by an eminent American doctor, Dr Albert Abrams. It has since been developed by numerous other practitioners. It is independent of the distance between practitioner and patient. Basic to radionic practice is a disciplined dowsing or radiesthetic skill. Radionics may be used alongside other therapies and to support conventional medicine. It does not replace nor interfere with conventional medical care but supplements it.
Reflexology is a complementary therapy based on the belief that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which are believed to correspond to all organs and parts of the body. Some practitioners may also include work on points found in the face and ears. Reflexology works on an individual basis and may alleviate and improve symptoms such as everyday stress and tension. During a typical reflexology session the reflexologist will take a detailed medical history. Sessions are usually performed in a comfortable chair or couch. If it is to be performed on the feet, the client will be asked to remove footwear and socks but other forms of reflexology require no removal of clothing. The practitioner will make a visual and tactile examination of the area to be worked before beginning the precise reflexology massage movements. The particular types of movements involved require the application of an appropriate pressure using the thumb and fingers. Reflexology can be a relaxing experience where you can take time out from everyday pressures. The therapist’s expert touch will help you relax which can help improve mood, aid sleep and relieve tension. The result is an overall sense of wellbeing.
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Reiki (ray-key) is Japanese for ‘universal life energy’, a term used to describe a natural system to help bring about an improved sense of wellbeing and a positive feeling of spiritual renewal. This tradition was founded by Dr Mikao Usui in the early 20th century and evolved as a result of his research, experience and dedication. It is a tradition that is open to any belief system and benefits may include deep relaxation and the promotion of a calm peaceful sense of wellbeing. The method of receiving a Reiki treatment from a practitioner is simple. The recipient remains clothed and comfortably lies on a couch or sits on a chair. The practitioner gently places their hands non-intrusively, on or near the body using their intuition and training as a guide. There is no massage or manipulation. Reiki can be used on the person as a whole, or on specific parts of the body. It is also possible to receive Reiki at a distance. Reiki is taught by Reiki Master/Teachers, who have trained in the tradition passed on, in person, from Master to student. Students go through a process of initiation/attunement to the Reiki energy. They are then able to treat themselves and others, not only from a personal and emotional perspective, but also as an aid to individual development and spiritual growth.
Shiatsu is a touch based therapy that applies pressure to areas of the surface of the body through loose comfortable clothing for the purpose of promoting and maintaining wellbeing. A Shiatsu practitioner will initially consult with the client and plan the Shiatsu treatment. The client will then be positioned comfortably, with appropriate adjustments being made throughout the session. Clear and accurate aftercare advice will be given. Shiatsu is a Japanese word that literally means finger pressure and derives its theoretical and practical roots from the ancient traditions of Oriental medicine. Today it is an autonomous treatment method influenced by Chinese, Japanese and Western knowledge.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an holistic approach to diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases by identifying patterns and then applying the individual or combined therapies of acupuncture (see acupuncture section), Chinese herbal medicine, tuina (a therapeutic massage), and other techniques. The fundamental theories of TCM include those of Qi, Yin Yang, the five elements, zang-fu, the four diagnostic methods and syndrome differentiation systems. It involves the use of natural plants and minerals. Each herb has its own specific characteristics and particular medical use for various conditions, rectifying the over-activity or under-activity of Yin and Yang, and helping restore the body to its normal physiological functions. The practitioner will conduct a diagnostic consultation, including asking you about your health problems, taking your pulse and observing your tongue, before making a prescription, which organically combines various herbs in accordance with Chinese medicine principles.
Yoga therapy may be a useful route for those who wish to develop their natural wellbeing. It is taught by yoga teachers with additional training and experience in the therapeutic adaptation and application of yoga. People may be taught one-to-one or in a therapy group setting. Yoga therapy may help with many issues and can be appropriate for a wide range of ages and lifestyles as well as those looking for a healthier way of life. Through practising a yoga therapy programme the participant may, for example, become more aware of posture and breathing. They may also find regular practice can help to promote relaxation, aid sleep and relieve tension; it may help to contribute to an increased sense of wellbeing and a positive mood. In a typical first yoga therapy session a medical history will be taken by the yoga therapist. The body, posture, simple movements and the breath may be observed and issues and concerns discussed. Working with yoga therapeutically is about the whole person. The yoga therapist will then assess how yoga therapy may help before planning and teaching a practice tailored to the needs of that individual. Practices may include one or more of a range of techniques such as posture work, breathing, relaxation, working with sound, reflection, and/or meditation. A number of sessions are likely to be needed to confirm safe and appropriate practice.