A to Z of alternative therapies

You don’t have to pop pills when you’re feeling off-colour, discover the benefits of complementary therapies with our A to Z guide

A is for angel therapy
Angel therapy practitioners believe we can tap into the angelic realm to find inner peace. Sessions are one-to-one with a therapist who uses crystals and a list of questions to produce a “reading”, geared towards helping you unblock emotional pain.
Visit http://www.circleofangels.co.uk

B is for the Bowen Technique
Effective at treating aches and pains, the Bowen Technique is a hands-on therapy which uses smaller, gentler moves than in traditional massage. The defining aspect of Bowen, which originated in Australia, is that between moves the practitioner takes little breaks to allow the body to “benefit”. Sessions last an hour and have show especially good results with frozen shoulders. 
Visit http://www.bowen-technique.co.uk

C is for chromotherapy
Chromotherapy, sometimes called colour therapy, uses colours and light to balance energy in the body. It’s a varied discipline, utilising anything from fabrics to coloured lenses to ‘apply’ colour to the body, but it’s most often used in conjunction with another therapy, such as massage or yoga.  Therapists match colours to your health issue for example they may choose yellow, the colour of clarity, to help alleviate headaches or mild depression.

D is for dream therapy
Anyone who’s ever had a vivid dream affect their mood all the next day will know how powerful the unconscious mind can be. Dream therapists concentrate on analysing the content of dreams, to help clients better cope with underlying stress or repressed pain. Expect to describe your dreams in an in-depth question and answer session lasting an hour or more. Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found recently that patients can also be helped to ‘re-think’ a happier ending to recurring nightmares, to increase the quality of their sleep.

E is for Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Often referred to as “acupuncture without needles”, EFT has been popularised by TV therapist Paul McKenna as a method of self-improvement. It involves gentle, repetitive tapping on meridian points in the body to “reprogramme” negative thought processes. EFT can help break the cycle of phobia, anger, pain and bad habits.
Read Emotional Freedom Technique For Dummies by Helena Fone (John Wiley & Sons, £15.99)

F is for floatation
Being suspended in body-temperature saltwater in total darkness and silence in a large coffin-like pod may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the sensory deprivation of floatation lowers blood pressure, aids relaxation and combats tension. You can also now try a dry floatation bed instead, perfect if you’re too claustrophobic for the float tank.

G is for general herbal medicine
With its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome, herbal medicine (or herbology, or phytotherapy as it’s often called) is perhaps the best-known complementary medicine. In fact, the World Health Organisation estimates that, globally, herbal medicine is 80 per cent more widely practised than conventional medicine. Medical herbalists treat the body as a whole, and in a consultation will enquire about your lifestyle, diet and stress levels, so they can tailor a treatment to your specific requirements, whether that’s prescribing stinging nettle as an anti-inflammatory or calendula for cramps.

H is for healing crystals
Often dismissed as flaky, crystal therapy has an impressive history that spans Indian Ayurvedic teachings and traditional Chinese medicine. Science still doesn’t have an explanation for how they heal, but crystals are believed to radiate an electromagnetic field that helps restore balance, both emotional and physical, to the body, making it ideal for anything from PMS to low energy. Fully clothed, you’ll lie on a couch while a therapist places crystals on your body or hangs them on a thread just above particular areas, like the forehead or stomach. Some spas also now incorporate crystal therapy into full-body massage.

I is for iridology
Iridologists consider the iris – the coloured part of the eye – as a “microchip” of health information, using it to diagnose problems in the body from the level of toxins to how efficiently your organs are doing their jobs.

J is for juicing
What began as a quirky idea in the raw food movement has, largely thanks to TV food gurus like Gillian McKeith, become an alternative healthcare phenomenon. Cold pressing fresh fruit and vegetables removes their fibre – making them easy to digest and full of health-boosting enzymes. Juices are excellent for anyone with a weakened immune system, and to boost skin, hair and nails when used regularly.

K is for kinesiology
First developed in America around 40 years ago, kinesiology teaches that a health problem can be detected by testing muscle strength. Any weaknesses or imbalances in the body’s muscle tone can signify a health blip, from IBS to asthma, and sometimes kinesiologists also place small glass phials containing foods, chemicals or bacteria on the body to test for toxins or allergies. You can expect a kinesiology test to be thorough but non-invasive.

L is for light therapy
Bright lightboxes are used as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but did you know that light is increasingly being used by dermatologists for skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne? Treatment is simple: time spent under a bright white lamp.

M is for massage with stones
The therapist holds oiled, smooth, heated stones while using traditional massage strokes all over the body, sometimes leaving stones on specific body points. The heat from the stones seeps into your muscles, making it a perfect treatment to try if you suffer from insomnia, neuralgia or stress.

N is for nutritional mapping
Nutritional therapists can help improve every aspect of your health, from mental alertness (try increasing your fish oils) to mood swings (up your intake of B6). A visit to a nutritionist will leave you with a comprehensive eating plan for optimum health, as well as possibly pinpoint any food allergies or intolerances.

O is for osteopathy
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recently found that spinal manipulation, as practised by osteopaths, is effective at treating persistent lower back pain, a condition that costs UK industry more than £5 billion in sick days each year. Osteopaths take a truly holistic approach, advising clients on diet and exercise and if other types of treatment or a visit to the GP would be beneficial. Make sure you only visit a registered therapist though.

P is for past-life regression
Hypnotherapists who specialise in past-life regression claim that in helping clients to explore their past, they can address problems in the present. You’ll be talked into a state of light hypnosis in an hour-long session that is usually taped so that you can hear the results yourself.
Visit http://www.general-hypnotherapy-register.com or www.pastliferegression.co.uk to find out more, but choose a practitioner carefully

Q is for qigong
Focusing on releasing blocked energy, Qigong is a ‘health maintenance’ exercise system, a little like Tai Chi, but slower. It combines a number of disciplines, such as deep breathing, meditation and controlled movement, and is practised by an estimated 200 million people worldwide. Once you learn the basics, you can practice on your own, and it’s suitable for all ages and abilities.

R is for reflexology
As long as you don’t mind your feet being touched, you might find reflexology good for treating a wide range of problems, from hormone fluctuations to eczema. Nicola Hall, chair of the British Reflexology Association says: “It’s a complementary medicine that’s also a very relaxing therapy, and suitable for almost everyone, even pregnant women. Reflexology works particularly well with PMS, menopause, mild depression and stress, and even a one-off treatment can really help.” Your therapist will systematically massage all the reflex zones in the sole of your foot, moving on to look for problems in the toes, bones, heels and ankles.
Visit http://www.britreflex.co.uk or ask your GP to refer you to a therapist

S is for shiatsu
Tired and tense? Shiatsu’s blend of light fingertip massage and targeted pressure may be the answer. Expect to receive your treatment fully-clothed, on a low massage table or a mat on the floor, and it’s not unusual to feel some localised pain, which therapists say is a sign of a blocked pathway. GMTV medic Dr Hilary Jones, who’s long been a supporter of shiatsu, says: “Various conditions including anxiety, stress, back pain, neck pain, and insomnia can all benefit from shiatsu. We may not know how it works but people who enter into it with an open mind often find they feel so much better.”

T is for trampolining
Exercise experts have long acknowledged that ‘rebounding’ is brilliant for fitness, but there’s a more general health benefit too: the time when you’re weightless in the air creates a gravitational pull that boosts the body’s ability to flush out toxins. Trampolining also increases lung capacity, sending more oxygen and nutrients into your cells

U is for underwater hydrotherapy
The Romans were the first to realise the health-giving properties of water, but today’s hydrotherapy comes in many forms from underwater massage to ‘hammam’-style toxin-eliminating steam rooms and even sea-water jet massage to clear congested skin. Brilliant for easing back pain and stress-related conditions like insomnia and IBS, hydrotherapy is best used as part of naturopathy.

V is for vibration therapy
When celebrities such as Cheryl Cole and Elle MacPherson raved about working out with a PowerPlate machine last year, it sparked a new interest in vibration therapy. What do we know about its benefits? Standing on a vibrating plate can make muscles contract up to 60 times a second, building their strength while putting very little stress on the joints and ligaments. This can help with core stability and posture problems, even reducing pain or recovery from injury: vibration therapy is also being studied by NASA as a way to maintain astronaut’s muscle and bone health.
Visit http://www.csp.org.uk to find a physiotherapies via The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy or ask at your local gym

W is for writing
The benefits of self-expression are clear: a study by Arizona State University found that writing three times a week can even reduce cholesterol. “Therapeutic writing” courses are available at health centres, colleges and retreats across the UK, where you can learn to write fluently, whether it’s about your own life, fiction or even poetry.
Read The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing by Gillie Bolton (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, £15.95)

X is for eXtreme cold cryotherapy
Eastern European athletes use it in their Olympic training, British football stars have travelled to Poland to try it and it’s said to relieve the symptoms of anything from psoriasis to chronic fatigue, but cryotherapy’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. It involves spending three minutes in a ‘reverse-sauna’ dry-ice chamber at minus 120 degrees, naked except for your underwear, shoes, gloves and a protective face mask. The cold shrinks the body’s molecules, which then expand upon exit, boosting blood flow, delivering more nutrients to the organs and easing pain in the process. It’s recommended you take ten sessions, each a day apart.
Phone The London Kriotherapy Centre 020 7627 1402

Y is for yoga
Kundalini is the latest hot trend in ‘power’ yoga, based on the idea that the body’s energy lies like a curled snake at the base of the spine. Learning how to control, flex and improve that energy can bring great health benefits, including increased strength, better digestion and a clear mind. “All yoga, but especially kundalini, balances people’s glandular and nervous systems and works on an emotional level”, says Ana Brett, a yoga expert whose client list includes Gwyneth Paltrow.
Try kundalini yoga at home with a DVD such as Ana’s Warrior Workout (£14.99, http://www.yogamatters.com).

Z is for zero balancing
Zero balancing uses touch techniques – gentle pressure and held stretches – to realign the body and banish any past traumas, either physical or emotional, that may be causing health problems. Clients lie on their backs, fully clothed, for a session typically lasting 30 minutes.

SEE ALSO: Alternative Medicines

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