Complementary Techniques offer a wide variety of options which may help improve your health and your quality and enjoyment of life. We list and describe some of the better known ones here for overview purposes. Our source is the Complementary Healthcare Information Service, with our comments and further descriptions. Go to our Health Information we Trust list to get more on these and other techniques.
Acupuncture – Well known Chinese therapy using fine needles to change energy flows. Evidence of effectiveness in dealing with pain and many other problems. High level qualified practitioner essential.
Acupressure – Same principles as acupuncture, using pressure instead of needles. You can learn to do some acupressure therapy on yourself.
Alexander Technique – Technique for learning how to efficiently and effortlessly use your body. Simple but profound approach to letting go of harmful tensions in posture and breathing. A safe and effective learning and therapy technique. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a liberating technique on many levels and a good basis for all physical activity from sports to making a cup of tea. Recent scientific studies rate this highly for back and neck problems.
Aromatherapy – The art of applying essential oils to suit individual needs. The oils work directly on the chemistry of the body, via the skin and bloodstream. May seem unlikely, but a number of medical sites assure us that it can be surprisingly effective and safe.
Art Therapy – Use of art for emotional therapy. Early evidence of effectiveness was with survivors returning from World War 2. Healing and health are strongly affected by emotion, so makes sense.
Ayurveda – The most important form of medicine in India. An ancient tradition, but most practitioners are also doctors or otherwise medically qualified. Ayurveda seeks to balance the body and mind, find health problems before they occur or stop them doing unnecessary harm. Obviously requires a qualified practitioner and is complementary to, not a replacement for conventional medical treatment.
Biofeedback – Machines give you feedback about how your body is working, allowing you to learn to regulate reactions causing problems. Evidence of usefulness for therapy and self-education for many conditions; a way to find out what your body’s up to and work with it.
Bowen Technique – Soft and non-invasive holistic treatment that aims to restore balance to the body by using small, gentle moves to specific areas of the body. Because the therapy is so gentle, it is considered to be suitable for all ages; helpful for many pain and stress related problems.
Chiropractic – Manipulation of spine and muscles for good balancing and health functioning. A powerful technique and NOT to be used for a number of conditions. Check with your doctor, and see our Health Information we Trust for help finding a qualified and registered practitioner.
Cognitive and Behaviour Therapies – Put crudely: It’s not what happens that causes the problems, it’s how you understand it and what you do with it. Less crudely, these have medical and government recognition for a wide variety of problems and can be startlingly effective in many cases. Many of us who they have helped consider them to be most remarkable life tools.
Feldenkrais Method – Not a therapy as such, but a well established method for learning greater ease of physical movement and increasing vitality and well-being.
Guided Imagery – The use of imagination as potent healer. Pleasant and potentially powerful in the right hands.
Healing – comes in many forms, from spiritual or religious to using energy flow as understood in martial arts. Whether the effectiveness is due to a placebo effect, energy flows or spirit, many people have been helped by healings throughout history.
Hellerwork – deep tissue massage that unblocks the body, movement education to correct postural alignment, and verbal dialogue to assess emotional holding patterns. Caution for conditions where deep massage contraindicated. Check carefully with your doctor before using any deep massage technique.
Herbal medicine – Herbal medicines can be very powerful, and are the basis of many conventional drugs. A good herbal practitioner looks at the whole person and health, not just the disease or condition. Because they can be very strong and conflict with prescribed medications, you absolutely need to tell your doctor what you’re going to be taking. A herbal remedy can destroy your therapy and health if it’s the wrong one for you.
Homoeopathy – famous and controversial. Vanishingly small amounts of a substance in water are given. Many in medical science consider this to be absurd. No conclusive proof either way, but many people have found help and relief. Hard to argue with happy patients, and it has the great virtue of being harmless. That said, neglecting medical treatment to depend on homeopathy is an enormous mistake, as your qualified homeopath will agree.
Hypnotherapy – not in any way a frightening experience or loss of consciousness or control, safe in qualified hands, and can be very effective in helping with anxiety, pain, illness, depression, destructive life-style and other condition related problems. Amazing results, in our experience, but only with an excellent therapist with whom you feel absolutely confident and comfortable.
Louise L. Hay techniques – based on the use of positive affirmations to effectively changing your mindset and health. A place to start is the Louise L. Hay book “You Can Heal Your Life” and audio tapes from Amazon. As we keep saying throughout this Our Place, mindset can profoundly affect healing.
Massage Therapy – There are many forms of massage, and they can be a great help in stress reduction, release of chronic muscle tensions around arthritis, and can have many other therapeutic effects depending on the technique used. Having your body cared for like this is great, but: be aware that deep or powerful massage pressure can be dangerous for some conditions. Check with your doctor or physio about what to avoid. It is important that your therapist asks what your medical/physical situation is. If they are not qualified, or you are not comfortable, you are in the wrong hands. Don’t risk damage.
Medau Movement – Enjoyable exercise to music for improving body use and posture, and good for stress reduction.
Meditation – A truly profound way to deal with stress and the human condition. Good meditation teaching is simple, and the result should be access to peace and stillness whatever is happening and wherever you are – at home, on the street, at work. We’ve recommended the approach of the Shollond Trust as it’s fast, free, and a good starting place for appreciating all forms of meditation. We also like BBC Health’s recommendations about meditation.
Naturopathy – Technique for helping the body to heal itself, and often incorporates a number of the other techniques discussed. Interesting to have one technique using the strengths of others. In capable hands this can be a very effective option.
NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) – A fascinating form of therapy, looking at how you do what you do, and how to change. We like this sentence from a practitioner: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else”. Far more to it than that of course, and worth learning about as a strong tool for problem solving and dealing with health and life.
Osteopathy – Certainly among the best known physical therapies and very well accepted as a complementary therapy. Osteopathy is highly regulated. Physical manipulation and massage techniques are used to help correct problems with the muscles, bones, and joints and influence many of the body’s systems. A good practitioner will ask in detail about your condition to not do harm with inappropriate manipulations. Practitioner must be qualified, registered, and take a medical history to understand what your condition is.
Pilates – Exercise method to method to strengthen the core postural muscles and develop balanced alignment through the use of slow, controlled movements and breathing. Often recommended by doctors, physiotherapists, and used by everyone from top professional athletes and dancers to people who have never done much exercise or thought they were unable to due to physical limitations. A great way to do exercise carefully and well. Be sure the teacher understands your condition.
Psychology of Mind – The book “Slowing Down to the Speed of Life” from Amazon is the well known place to start. POM techniques and understandings are simple and can be life changing. A way to use your problems to vastly improve your life. For the anxieties associated with illness (not to mention life) this is something special.
Psychotherapy – Many forms, and a vital and immensely beneficial approach for many people. The idea that psychotherapy is for people who are insane couldn’t be more wrong. It’s one of the best learning and healing tools and most interesting things you could choose to do. Practitioners must be qualified, and you have to find one you feel comfortable with and helped by. For the anxiety and emotional problems of chronic conditions, including the chronic condition of being human, a good one.
Reiki Healing – A Japanese form of healing through energy flow and which, interestingly, is also concerned with living in harmony with others, taking responsibility for one’s own health and happiness, helping others, and being positive about all things.
Shiatsu – Traditional Japanese physical therapy, using a range of techniques from gentle touch to more dynamic work to improve specific conditions and general health. A qualified practitioner will take a detailed history from you and avoid more dynamic techniques where they might be contra-indicated for your condition. Check with your doctor or physiotherapist before trying.
Tai Chi – A soft, gentle and very powerful Chinese martial art, movement meditation, and way of healing through movement. Tai Chi works very well for older and ill people. It helps to free and balance the body, breathing and movement, and to find calm, stability, peace and deep security. If you have serious problems with feet, knees or walking it may not work for you. If that’s the case the exercises of Qigong (or Chi Kung) use the same principles but can be done sitting as well as standing. Tai Chi is a way to contact deep reserves of strength and ease.
Trager Work – A form of bodywork and movement which utilises gentle, rhythmic movements to facilitate the release of stress patterns – physical, mental, and emotional. Created by a doctor and physiotherapist working with his own chronic pain since childhood, this method also has a meditation aspect.
Yoga – The ancient Indian system of postures, exercises, breathing, and body and mind development and control. Popular and widely available these days. The basic exercises of Hatha Yoga, taught with careful respect for your physical problems and limitations, are a good place to start, along with pranayam breathing exercises. There are also some extremely challenging physical styles of yoga which may not be not at all appropriate. Be sure your teacher knows what your physical problems are, and that your doctor has no problem with your doing their form of yoga. That said, it is a wonderful combination of calm body, mind and spirit training and self-help therapy.