The world of complementary medicine offers safe and effective solutions to many health disorders, from backaches to headaches. You may be interested in alternative care approaches, but have a number of questions you’d like answered before choosing a treatment. “Will I feel the acupuncture needles?” “What is a homeopathic remedy?” Your Guide to Alternative Medicine provides the facts necessary to choose an effective complementary care therapy.
This comprehensive reference clearly explains numerous approaches in an easy-to-use format. For every complementary care option discussed, there is a description and brief history; a list of conditions that respond; information on cost and duration of treatment; credentials and educational background of practitioners; and more. To find those therapies most appropriate for a specific condition, a unique troubleshooting chart lists common disorders along with the complementary approaches best suited to treat them. Here is a reference that can help you make informed decisions about all your important healthcare needs.
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About the Author
Larry P. Credit received his doctorate in Oriental medicine from SAMRA University, and is a graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture.
Sharon G. Hartunian received a bachelor of science in psychology from Tufts University and a master of science in social work from Simmons College.
Margaret J. Nowak is a graduate of the New Hampshire Institute for Therapeutic Arts.
Read an Excerpt
Your Guide to Alternative MEDICINEUnderstanding, Locating, and Selecting Holistic Treatments and Practitioners
By Larry P. Credit Sharon G. Hartunian Margaret J. Nowak
SQUARE ONE PUBLISHERSCopyright © 2003 Larry P. Credit
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA-to-Z Guide to Alternative Medicine
WHAT IS IT?
Acupressure is the application of pressure, using fingers, thumbs, palms, or elbows, to stimulate, disperse, and regulate the body's healing energy. It is an approach based on the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (see page 151). Over many centuries, through trial and error, the Chinese developed a treatment system that uses the body's natural abilities. The main concept behind this system is that healing energy-chi-circulates throughout the body along specific pathways, called meridians. The flow of chi through the meridians connects all areas of the body much like the streets on a road map link various locations. It is possible, for example, to treat facial pain by applying pressure to a specific section of the hand, because a meridian connects the two areas.
The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to keep the body in balance and harmony through the free flow of chi. Disease is a result of blockages in this energy current. Acupressure releases chi obstructions through the application of pressure atcertain points along the meridians.
CONDITIONS THAT RESPOND BEST
Acupressure is an appropriate treatment option for the relief or reduction of the following conditions:
Carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist pain
Foot, ankle pain
Immune system weakness
Knee, hip, pelvic pain
Neck, shoulder pain
Premenstrual syndrome (pms)
Swollen lymph nodes
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The practitioner chooses appropriate acupressure points and methods of treatment (the use of fingers, thumbs, palms, or elbows) according to the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine, your specific condition, and your medical history. As the practitioner applies pressure to these points, obstructions in the flow of healing energy dissolve, your muscles and ligaments relax, and the body returns to healthier structure. The amount of pressure placed upon a particular point depends on your tolerance of that pressure. A deep, constant circular movement is the primary objective. Treatment time per point can range anywhere from a few seconds to five minutes, or until relief occurs.
The approach of acupressure is very similar to that of acupuncture (see page 16), since both types of treatment are based on the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The main difference is that acupressure uses only finger, hand, and elbow pressure-no needles or substances are involved.
WHAT TO EXPECT
You should expect to be treated in a safe, clean, and comfortable environment. The practitioner will take a full medical history, including examination through observation and questioning. He or she will address all relevant information, characteristics, and symptoms. Next, the acupressurist will check the alignment of your spine. Results from these evaluations will determine the cause of the problem and the areas to be treated.
Acupressure sessions usually take place on a padded treatment table or on a treatment chair. You should wear comfortable clothing that allows for free movement. A treatment gown may have to be worn, depending on the part of body that requires therapeutic attention. The practitioner should be especially sensitive to draping procedures, making sure to expose only the necessary area.
A completed acupressure session will result in effects that are similar to those achieved by a massage, including: increased blood and nutrient circulation; the release of endorphins; and the elimination of waste matter, especially lactic acid, from the muscles. Because acupressure dislodges toxins, you may experience a sensation of lightheadedness, but it will pass quickly. To cleanse the system, it is recommended that you drink plenty of water after a treatment session.
$60-$90 per session/60 minutes
Response to acupressure varies according to the condition. Some acute problems, such as headaches and sinusitis, often are relieved after one session. Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, or sciatica, usually require a number of treatments before the body experiences a significant result.
AOBTA: American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia
Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy (NCCAOM): Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy Dipl. A.B.T. (NCCAOM): Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy NCBTMB: National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
There is no state licensing specifically for the practice of acupressure in the United States. However, there are some states that have Massage/Bodywork licensing laws that include Acupressure in that category and accept the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) as part of its criteria. Further, some of these states also accept the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) ABT (Asian Bodywork Therapy) Exam. Since licensing varies from state to state, it is recommended that you seek a practitioner who has graduated from and been certified by an accredited school of acupressure. The members of the organizations that are listed at the conclusion of this section are required to meet certain professional and academic standards. A referral from these organizations will indicate that an individual has received proper training.
Practitioners who are members of the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia may use AOBTA after their names to denote that they have met the criteria necessary to join this organization. There are two levels of membership. A Certified Practitioner has had a minimum of 500 hours of training. An Associate has a minimum of 150 hours of training. Those practitioners who have passed the ABT exam given by the NCCAOM can use either "Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy (NCCAOM)" or "Dipl. A.B.T. (NCCAOM)". These practitioners have had a minimum of 500 hours of training.
HOW TO FIND A PRACTITIONER
The best way to find a practitioner of acupressure is to contact the professional organizations listed below to get a referral for an acupressurist in your area, or to a nearby acupressure training institute. Many schools offer training clinics that provide treatments at reduced rates. It is important to note that qualified practitioners of acupressure are not necessarily members of these organizations. Another way to locate an acupressurist is to look in the yellow pages under "acupressure"; "health services"; "holistic/wholistic centers"; and/or "holistic/wholistic practitioners."
American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) 1010 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Suite 408 Voorhees, NJ 08043-3514 (856) 782-1616 fax: (856) 782-1653 email: email@example.com website: aobta.org
National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) 11 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 300 Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 548-9004 fax: (703) 548-9079 email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: nccaom.org
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 300 McLean, VA 22102 (800) 296-0664 or (703) 610-9015 email: email@example.com website: ncbtmb.com
Kenyon, Julian, M.D. Acupressure Techniques: A Self-Help Guide. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1998.
WHAT IS IT?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of healing that involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points on the body. Archaeologists now believe that acupuncture may have been practiced as far back as the Stone Age; needle-like instruments made of jade were discovered at excavation sites near the ancient city of Yin, China. Traditional Chinese Medicine (see page 151) is based on the concept that a universal life energy-chi-is present in every living creature. This energy circulates throughout the body along specific pathways, called meridians. As long as energy flows freely, health is maintained. If, however, the chi becomes blocked, the system is disrupted and pain and illness result. Acupuncture works to unblock the pathways by stimulating certain points along the meridians.
CONDITIONS THAT RESPOND BEST
According to the World Health Organization of the United Nations, some of the many conditions for which acupuncture is considered an appropriate treatment are:
Colds and flus
High blood pressure
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Menstrual irregularities, cramps
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture stimulates physical reactions in the body, including changes in brain activity, blood chemistry, endocrine functions, blood pressure, heart rate, and immune system response. Medical research shows that acupuncture rouses the body's natural healing abilities to regulate red and white blood cell counts, trigger the production of endorphins, and control blood pressure. These findings begin to explain acupuncture's ability to affect a wide range of illnesses.
The practitioner will diagnose your condition and choose the appropriate acupuncture points according to the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The acupuncturist primarily uses two techniques: acupuncture and moxibustion.
Acupuncture, also called needle therapy, is the insertion of hair-thin, sterile, disposable needles into selected points on the body. When the needle stimulates the acupuncture point, a warm, tingling sensation often is felt. Moxibustion, also called heat therapy, involves the burning of a cigar-shaped roll of moxa-an herb also known as mugwort, or Artemisia vulgaris-above the acupuncture point. Another method includes laying a small slice of fresh ginger root directly on the treatment site, and then placing a piece of dried moxa on top of the ginger. The moxa is ignited, quickly burns on the ginger slice, and the juice from the ginger permeates the aching area. Moxibustion results in a deep penetrating heat and subsequent pain relief. The heat not only has a soothing effect, but also opens the pores of the skin, allowing the healing properties of the ginger to enter the body. Ginger is known for its ability to provide internal warmth. Moxibustion is an extremely effective treatment for conditions of weakness and sensitivity to cold.
The primary focus of acupuncture is to correct the underlying cause of the disease and to produce a lasting cure. Several factors determine the extent to which a person is helped by acupuncture and moxibustion. These include the nature and severity of the health problem, the length of time the problem has existed, and the amount of physical damage caused by the problem. But the most important factor is the strength of each person's recuperative powers, which encompasses a person's age, physical and emotional health, determination, and attitude towards the outcome of treatment.
WHAT TO EXPECT
You should expect to be treated in a safe, clean, and comfortable environment where privacy and confidentiality are maintained. The practitioner will take a full medical history, including examination through observation and questioning. He or she will address all relevant information, characteristics, and symptoms. Results from this evaluation will determine the cause of the problem and the areas to be treated.
Acupuncture sessions usually take place on a padded treatment table or on a treatment chair. You should wear comfortable clothing that allows for free movement. A treatment gown may have to be worn, depending on the part of the body that requires therapeutic attention. The practitioner should be especially sensitive to draping procedures, making sure to expose only the necessary area.
Many people worry that acupuncture will be painful, but treatments are practically painless. Acupuncture needles are hair-thin, sterile, stainless steel, disposable, and generally cause no bleeding. They are far different from the hypodermic needles used for injections. The skin is cleansed with alcohol before and after treatment. You may feel a minor tingling upon insertion, as the needle reaches the correct point under the skin. Sometimes a slight heat or numbness is experienced, but these sensations are only momentary. In most cases, the needles can hardly be felt at all; often, patients are unaware that insertion is taking place. Once a client has experienced the first session, he or she usually feels happy with the procedure and comfortable with returning for additional acupuncture treatments.
Most people who have been treated by acupuncture notice a considerable improvement in their general health. One of the greatest advantages of this approach is the absence of any harmful side effects associated with its use. Patients sometimes report feeling lightheaded, even euphoric, after treatments. In order to stabilize the body, a few moments of rest after a session is advised.
$60-$225 per session/approximately 50 minutes
The number of necessary treatments varies with different conditions; a chronic problem is likely to require a greater number of treatments than an acute problem, which can respond to a single acupuncture session. A series of six to ten treatments is considered typical. Acupuncture is more effective when treatments take place in close proximity to each other, such as having two or three sessions in one week.
C.A.: Certified Acupuncturist
Dipl.Ac. (NCCAOM): Diplomate in Acupuncture
Diplomate in Acupuncture (NCCAOM): Diplomate in Acupuncture
L.Ac.Lic.Ac.: Licensed Acupuncturist
M.Ac.: Master of Acupuncture
R.Ac.: Registered Acupuncturist
The regulation of acupuncture practice differs from state to state. While some do not require acupuncture practitioners to graduate from an accredited program, growing numbers of states have instituted this as a prerequisite for state licensure. A non-physician acupuncturist must have more than two years of training at an accredited program, be licensed or registered in your state if applicable, and/or have passed the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exam, which requires at least 1,725 hours of acupuncture training. Safe and effective practice standards have been established by the NCCAOM. All practitioners certified by this commission or by the state comply with strict regulations for proper needle sterilization and handling.
A physician acupuncturist must have at least 200 hours of acupuncture training and should be a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, which requires proof of training for membership.
Excerpted from Your Guide to Alternative MEDICINE by Larry P. Credit Sharon G. Hartunian Margaret J. Nowak Copyright © 2003 by Larry P. Credit . Excerpted by permission.
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