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Monday, 8 June, 1998, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Complementary medicine
Needle in a leg
Acupuncture: a widely used complementary therapy
What is complementary medicine?

Conventional medicine is led by the doctor's diagnosis. Symptoms and medical tests are used to assess the problems and then treatment is prescribed.

Complimentary medicine aims to treat the patient as a whole. For alternative practitioners, illness can mean a breakdown or disturbance of physical and mental wellbeing. Treatment aims to stimulate the body's natural resources and self-healing abilities.

Popular complementary therapies:

Acupuncture: An ancient Chinese art based on the theory that Qi energy flows along meridians in the body, and can be stimulated by inserting fine needles at specific points. Acupuncture is used to treat asthma, addiction, arthritis, depression, anxiety, blood pressure disorder and problems with the digestive system.

Herbal medicine: It is believed that as much as 80% of the world outside the industrialised countries relies on herbs for health. In fact, many commercially produced pharmaceutical products are derived from herbs, but herbal medicine uses the whole plant rather than an extract. Used to help most illnesses including migraine, arthritis, depression, insomnia and lung, stomach, blood and skin disorders

Homoeopathy: Works on the principal that what makes a healthy person unwell can be used to treat the same symptoms in someone who is unwell. But homeopathic medicines are diluted to a high degree. Used on asthma, allergies, anxiety, tension, menstrual problems and morning sickness.

Massage Therapy: The manipulation of soft tissue for therapeutic purposes, which may include the use of oil, salt glows, and hot and cold packs. Designed to create a state of being both relaxed and alert; relief from stress; faster recovery time from an injury; and a greater sense of self-awareness.

Osteopathy: A widely respected therapy which also has a regulatory council. Osteopaths manipulate the muscles and spine to improve mobility and balance. It can help with many types of injury and be useful in treating arthritis, sciatica, headaches, depression and digestion problems.

Reflexology:A type of deep foot (or hand) massage designed to relax the whole body through the reflex response. The thumbs are used extensively to break up crystalline deposits which reflexologists say form at the nerve endings, particularly on the bottom of the feet.

Shiatsu: Shiatsu means finger, or thumb pressure. Like acupuncture, it is based on the theory that meridians, or lines, of energy run through the body, and can be manipulated. Techniques include pounding, stretching and rocking. Pressure may be applied by use of forearms, elbows, palms, feet and knees. The end result should be greater mobility and flexibility, a clearer sense of one's body, and a sense of being both relaxed and energised.

See also:

19 May 98 | Your NHS
21 May 98 | Health
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