Complementary Approaches to Care

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Complementary Approaches to Care

Complementary medicine (CM) refers to many different therapeutic techniques of treating a patient. Which are considered unorthodox therapies and are used as adjuncts to conventional medicine (Freshwater 2005). These techniques are based on systems that were practiced thousands of years ago and are believed to be the original forms of medicine. All complementary medicine has one thing in common, which is that they treat the patient as a whole person rather than concentrating on their symptoms, this is called holistic care, many complementary therapists believe that disease is the result of disturbances in a patients physical, psychological, social, and spiritual levels and that the purpose of CM is to restore balance and help the body's own healing process.  

     CM is becoming increasingly popular with the general public and media. Many medical professionals are now recognising the benefits of CM when combine with mainstream medical approaches. Some general practitioners are beginning to recommend CM along side medical treatment, for example many cancer patients are having acupuncture to help relive side affects caused by chemotherapy for example nausea and vomiting.

    There are many types of complementary approaches for example, eastern, manipulative, natural and also therapies involving external powers.

    Eastern therapies are therapies that were ordinarily developed in the east i.e. Asia, China, India, Japan and the Middle East, such as acupuncture, shiatsu and Chinese Medicine.    

     Manipulative therapies is the "Application of an accurately determined and specifically directed manual force to the body, in order to improve mobility in areas that are restricted; in joints, in connective tissues or in skeletal muscles." (Korr.I 1978) There are many different manipulative therapies such as reflexology, Tui Na, body massage and chiropractic.

     Natural therapies are a way of healing the body by restoring your body’s natural balance, which maybe of a physical, emotional or spiritual nature. Examples of natural therapies are herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine, crystal therapy and gem essences.

     Therapies involving external powers are a more controversial approach to complementary therapies; they include reiki and angel therapy.


     Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular, with more and more people seeking acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is a complementary therapy which has one of the most scientific research to support the mechanisms of acupuncture. Yet no one can conclusively explain how it works, however there are some theories, such as the nerve-reflex theory. This was developed by Japanese doctors of physiology (Ishikawa and Fujita et al). They believe that when an abnormal condition occurs in an internal organ, such as the stomach or the kidneys the muscles and skin which relate to that organ change, by means of the autonomic nervous system. The nervous system is constantly sending messages to the spinal cord and the brain, about the body’s physical condition. This information sets up a reflex action which causes symptoms of that internal organ to manifest, this is called Viscera-Cutanous reflex. At the same time this stimulation of the muscles and skin can cause dilation or constriction of the blood vessels, which changes the blood and lymph flow of the internal organs, this stimulates the endocrine and immune systems, this is called Cutanous-Viscera reflex. According to this theory acupuncture is believed to be a systemic stimulation therapy, which activates these autonomic reflexes in order to restore homeostasis and accelerate the healing process.

    Whether this theory is accurate or not acupuncture has gained scientific credibility in Western medicine and is being used alongside conventional treatment.

     The word acupuncture comes from the Latin “acus” which means needle and “punctura” which means to prick. Acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating needles into certain strategic points on the body. This relieves symptoms in areas close to the needles or in other parts of the body. Acupuncture is based on the relationship between the body’s organs and it’s surface. When an organ is damaged or diseased, pain may occur on the skin e.g. it may become tender or red. Stimulation of these points sends impulses to the nervous system which affect the organs.  The Chinese describe one thousand acupuncture points on the body, which can be divided into twelve groups and joined

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by imaginary lines on the body called meridians, these are associated with the internal organs Acupuncture has been used in the Far East for over two thousand and five hundred years. The needles that were originally used were made out of stone, then later bronze, gold and silver. The earliest Chinese text that describes acupuncture is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which was wrote around 305-204 B.C. Acupuncture was gradually developed and refined by masters such as Li Shi Zen, a famous Chinese herbalist, who published his fifty volume Compendium of Materia Medica and a study of the Pulse and Extraordinary Meridians, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). At the beginning of the twentieth century acupuncture was banned by law in China. However it was still practiced as folk medicine, until 1949 when acupuncture became popular again, after the establishment of the People's Republic and during the Cultural Revolution the value of acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicine was officially recognised again. Acupuncture only became the subject of serious study in Britain in the 1950’s since when there has been a steady increase in the number of professionally trained acupuncturists; in the 1970’s there were only a hand full, today there are two thousand and eight hundred acupuncturists registered with the British Acupuncture Council (BacC 2007).

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      When you go for a treatment the acupuncturist will ask you questions about your general health and medical history, this is to discover if there are any contraindications to you having this treatment. All this means is, does the client have a condition that could affect how the treatment is provided in order for it to be safe for them, For example if you have a blood disorder i.e. haemophilia, suffer from epilepsy or have a pacemaker. If this is the case the acupuncturist may ask you to get a signed letter from your G.P. saying it is ...

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