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At a glance: alternative medicine

Reiki is one of many practices that can be considered as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Some, like acupuncture, have been used around the world for thousands of years. Here are just a few CAM practices categorized by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the federal government's lead agency for scientific research in this area.

Natural products

Includes use of herbal medicines and dietary supplements. This is the most popular CAM category, with a 2007 study finding that nearly 18 percent of U.S. adults used a nonvitamin/nonmineral natural product. The most popular one? Fish oil.

Mind-body practices

• Yoga and meditation for relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, or enhancing overall health and well-being.

• Acupuncture, a medical system that originated in China, can be counted in this and other categories. It involves stimulation of specific points on the body using techniques, such as penetrating the skin with needles that are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation. A key component of Chinese medicine, it is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of chi and imbalance in yin and yang.

• Other examples include deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, progressive relaxation, qigong and Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian system aimed at integrating body, mind and spirit to prevent and treat disease.

Manipulative and body-based practices

• Spinal manipulation: May include chiropractic medicine, massage and naturopathy. Practitioners use their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine, often to treat lower back pain.

• Massage therapy: Pressing, rubbing and moving muscles and other soft tissues of the body to increase the flow of blood and oxygen. Used to relieve pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, and aid general well-being.

Energy field therapy

Reiki, qigong and healing touch are based on the concept that human beings are infused with subtle energy that can heal the spirit and thus the body. Practices based on measurable forms of energy include magnet therapy and light therapy.

Whole medical systems

Examples include Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, as well as more modern systems such as homeopathy and naturopathy.

Source: NCCAM

At a glance: alternative medicine 08/26/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 26, 2011 5:30am]

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