So you have decided to give Complementary Medicine a try. Maybe you have walked into a brick wall with Conventional Medicine or, your experience of it left you feeling burned. The message is very clear - Conventional Medicine has used all that it has to offer and nothing worked. Or, perhaps you have discussed your condition with your doctors and the procedures that they are proposing are just not acceptable to you. You just know that there must be a better way.
So, for one reason or another you have decided to look at Complementary Medicine.
As you seek out Complementary Medicine for the first time you may well experience yourself thrown into an enormous maze of confusing information. There are a myriad of different therapies with technical, exotic or weird sounding names: Biokinesiology, Trager, Ayurvedic, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Naturopathy, Aston Patterning, Alexander Technique, Reflexology, Reiki, Reichian Therapy, Homoeopathy, Macrobiotics, etc. It would seem that you need a degree just to become familiar with all the different therapies and what they have to offer.
What is important to understand from the outset is that Complementary Medicine is completely different in its orientation to healing to Conventional Medicine. Where Conventional Medicine will intervene or take over to bring about healing, Complementary Medicine is much more oriented to supporting the person in healing him or herself. Where Conventional Medicine utilizes carefully selected drugs and surgical procedures to fix what ails you, Complementary Medicine relies heavily on the inherent resources that a person already has to heal him or herself. And, when external resources are recruited by Complementary Medicine, these resources (i.e. herbs, homoeopathic remedies, physical and/or energetic stimulation, etc.) are prepared and administered with great care to minimize interference with their natural state. This is based on the observation that substances that have not been chemically altered are much more harmonious and effective in the body.
The orientation of Complementary Medicine is to support and strengthen your own capacity to heal yourself. The primary perspective is that the body has a built-in knowledge of how it got sick, and consequently, it knows how to bring about its own healing. Rather than attempting to second guess what this process is and how it should proceed, Complementary Medicine will do it's best to provide resources to assist the body, knowing that the body is capable to heal itself if it is given half a chance to do so.
Another way of understanding this orientation is to appreciate that when the body is sick, it is out of balance. Stress might be considered the source of the imbalance. Of course, stress can have many different origins and forms. However, complementary medicine seeks to eliminate stress and restore balance in the body's functioning.
Each of the therapies that make up Complementary Medicine contributes in its own unique way to eliminate stress, restore balance and support the body in its process of healing itself.
Consequently, you may need to completely re-orient yourself when approaching Complementary Medicine. No longer will the doctor be taking charge, and so, it is necessary for you to take charge of your healing program. You need to start making the decisions as to what you think would be best for you. For many, this may be overwhelming. It can be very scary to not have the apparent security of a doctor making decisions for you. Some first questions may be: "How can I decide or make choices?" "What criteria am I supposed to use?"
Like starting anything else that is new, this may seem scary. But, it is not very different to anything else, either. You start with what you have got: the name of your condition, and/or a description of your symptoms, the history of your condition - when it first started, how it has evolved, and, if anyone else in your family has had it or anything similar. In short, all that you know about what is going on with you.
If you feel that your knowledge is incomplete, you might want to do some research. Here you get to play detective. Ask anybody that you feel might be able to shed some light on what is happening with you. This might be doctors and other professionals who have examined you to date, groups or organizations that provide support for people with your condition, other people that have had the same or similar conditions, medical dictionary/encyclopaedia, health books and magazines, or, the staff in natural food stores. These can all be helpful resources.
As you make your way, always ask for suggestions of more resources. It is like a treasure hunt: one piece of information, or, one informant will often lead to another. Remember that you are in charge. Collect all of the information into a file - you never know what may eventually prove valuable.
Once you are ready, you can start exploring the different complementary forms of healing to seek out those which you feel are most likely to be beneficial for you.
Alleviating stress, supporting the body to heal itself and restoring balance to the body's functioning is the orientation of all the therapies, and, each one contributes to this process it in it's own unique way.
For example, some therapies select and recommend nutritional and natural substances that assist the body to regain bio-chemical balance, and strengthen and heal itself: Ayurvedic Medicine, Herbology, Nutritional Counselling, Biokinesiology, Iridology. Each of these has it's own methods and criteria for selection of it's recommendations.
Physical stress and tension that is inhibiting your body's healing process is relieved by other therapies: Massage Therapy, Reflexology, Shiatsu, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Polarity Therapy or Trager.
Similarly, there are therapies that work with the physical structure of your body to correct it's functioning, alleviate pain, and/or improve its efficiency. Rolfing, Aston Patterning, Postural Integration, Shiatsu, Feldenkrais, Reflexology, Trager and Chiropractic are all examples of these.
Other therapies work with the energy system of the body to bring it into balance. The lack of balance in the energy system is understood as the source of stress and hence, physical illness. Examples of these are Acupuncture, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Energy Healing, Polarity Therapy, Reflexology, Shiatsu, and Biokinesiology.
As you can see there are some therapies that fit into more than one of the categories that I have presented. This is because the categories are phoney. Human functioning does not fit into such neat packages and a therapy will inevitably interact with the functioning of a human being in many different ways.
The human being is extremely complex with many, many aspects that interrelate. By talking to practitioners of these therapies you will be able to get a broader sense of what each has to offer, and, how it might contribute to your healing process. Your choices will be affected by the nature of the condition that is concerning you, and your personal preferences. I encourage you to first and foremost trust your sense of what feels right for you.
There is no therapy that is right for everyone. Similarly, there is no therapy that is consistently effective for different health concerns, or, for the same health concern occurring in different people. Consequently, you will be engaged in a process of trial and error - sampling different therapies to discover which ones you respond to best.
My speciality is reflexology, which relieves stress and tension throughout the whole body - including the internal glands and organs. Consequently, reflexology not only alleviates stress and tension that causes muscular pain and headaches, but also relieves stress and tension throughout the digestive system, the immune system, the glandular system, the nervous system, etc. This directly effects the functioning of these systems, moving them toward optimal functioning. Assimilation of nutrients is enhanced, elimination of toxins is enhanced, immune functioning is enhanced, circulation of lymph and blood is improved, etc. Research has shown that reflexology reduces the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome by over 40%, and, numerous other conditions that have not yet been researched are observed to benefit from reflexology. You might consider the combination of reflexology with appropriate nutrition and herbal remedies as a powerful formula to support the body in it's healing.
Frequently, the source of the stress and tension in your body will be an emotional conflict. When the expression of an emotion has been suppressed or repressed it festers in the physical body, creating an imbalance in the body's functioning. This is frequently the source of disease, and, can manifest in a wide variety of symptoms, effecting any and every part of the body. Consequently, if you want long lasting results, and sometimes, any results at all, it will be necessary for you to discover and resolve the emotional conflict that lies at the root of your disease. For this you may well need to seek out the services of a counsellor or therapist qualified to work with emotional and/or psychological issues, especially as they pertain to disease.
By Christopher Shirley
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