Holistic health care has become increasingly popular. Whether turning to massage for muscle pain, popping dietary supplements to fend off colds, or meditating to tame anxiety, about 30 percent of American adults now use some form of holistic medicine, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
There are countless reasons for this. People with chronic pain may turn to holistic medicine to reduce their reliance on opioids. Others use alternative treatments to help manage conditions that can be difficult to treat solely with medication, such as depression. And in many cases, people add holistic treatments to their daily routine in order to improve their overall well-being—to boost energy, improve sleep quality, lift their mood, and alleviate everyday stress.
Types of Holistic Treatments
Alternative treatments vary greatly. Some, like chiropractic, are professionally administered therapies. Others can be learned and done independently, such as meditation and other mind-body practices.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, these points are located along invisible lines of energy flow called “meridians”, which connect our organs to other parts of our body.
One of the most widely studied alternative treatments available, acupuncture has been found to effectively relieve several types of pain (including low back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis-related pain). There’s also some evidence that acupuncture may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraines.
While few clinical trials have tested the health effects of aromatherapy, according to the NCCIH, it may help to alleviate stress, relieve common health troubles like menstrual pain and insomnia, and even has been studied as a potential treatment for various side effects of cancer treatment such as nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth.
Common Scents for Aromatherapy
Those that have received the most attention from researchers include:
The practice of Ayurveda includes diet, cleansing and detoxification (through fasting, for example), herbal medicine, yoga, meditation, exercise, and body treatments such as massage. These elements are combined into individualized treatment plans by a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner.
Because there are so many different supplements available and they aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it’s important to check with a doctor or other health professional before adding supplements to a drug regimen, as some may interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
A Popular Alternative Therapy
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the primary reason people get massage is to boost health and wellness. The organization reports that in July of 2017, around 50 million adults in the US. discuss massage therapy with a doctor or other health care provider, and that 59 percent of those doctors strongly recommended massage and/or referred them to a massage therapist.
Among the many types of massage used in this way are Swedish massage (which involves long strokes, kneading, and deep circular movements), deep tissue massage, and shiatsu (which focuses on applying pressure to the same points on the body targeted by acupuncture).
As more and more research shows a strong link between stress and pain, there’s also some evidence that some mind-body techniques may benefit people with pain-causing conditions.
Are Holistic Treatments Safe?
Because few alternative treatments have been extensively studied, little is known about the safety of these treatments. In order to minimize the health risks of alternative treatments, it’s important to talk to your doctor before adding such treatments to your health regimen.
In addition, it should be noted that using alternative treatments in place of physician-prescribed therapy may have serious consequences and significantly harm your health.
A Word From Verywell
Your doctor can guide you in finding a qualified practitioner, an essential element in reaping the greatest benefit from whichever alternative treatment you choose.