Understanding Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Along with all the advancements in medicine and medical technology, complementary and alternative solutions are also gaining traction.

A survey by the University of Bristol in 2015 found that 16 per cent of adult respondents said they used some form of complementary or alternative medicine in the last 12 months. But how exactly does one form of treatment classify as complementary or alternative? What are these treatments? And which one is right for you?

Alternative medicine or therapy refers to health treatments outside the standard of Western medicine. When these treatments are used along with conventional practice, they are referred to as complementary. And although the results of studies on their efficacy differ, a lot of people swear by their healing prowess.

Accupressure and Accupuncture

This traditional Chinese treatment involves targeting specific points or meridians in the body. Acupuncture practitioners use thin needles to stimulate these points while acupressure practitioners use hands and elbows.

In the UK, practice of the former is self-regulated by the British Acupuncture Council. Both practices are commonly used to alleviate pain and treat insomnia.


Reflexology practitioners operate on the theory that applying pressure on specific areas of the feet, hands, or ears has a positive effect on the different organs and systems of the body that they are believed to correspond. Reflexology is commonly used to complement treatments for cancer, kidneys, and diabetes.


The idea behind homeopathy is to introduce a highly diluted version of a substance that causes certain symptoms to trigger the natural healing power of the body. Practitioners often dilute substances to the point where they become hardly present in the product. Homeopathy is used to treat a wide array of physical and even psychological conditions.


Naturopathic doctors have undergone both conventional and alternative medical training. Because of this, their treatments involve a wider range of concepts including other items on this list.

One of the most popular naturopathy approaches is nutritional therapy. Specific foods and diets are prescribed to patients to meet their ideal nutrition goals and complement other medical treatments. This helps patients recover faster. Nutritional therapists are usually trained in biochemistry, pathology, and physiology. Since this approach is one of the more widely accepted forms of complementary medicine, there is a wealth of available information out there if nutritional therapy is something you want to learn more about.

Chiropractic Medicine

Like nutritional therapy, chiropractic medicine is one of the more generally accepted treatments on this list. The practice involves the manipulation of certain parts of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems by applying controlled pressure. This treatment allows pain to resolve and tissues to heal.

There are a lot of other treatments that fall under complementary and alternative medicine. Approaches like aromatherapy, osteopathy, biofeedback, and reiki are other examples of these.

If you’re interested in trying any of these, do your research and decide whether one or more treatments is applicable to you. Modern, conventional medicine has come a long way, but when it comes to your health, you should be able to utilise and maximise all the resources available to you.

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