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Alternative Medicine Essay, Research Paper

Alternative medicine, also known as alternative therapies, lie outside the realm of

conventional medicine. An alternative therapy is any intervention that: is not reimbursable by

most health insurance providers in the United States, is not well supported by scientific tests

establishing safety and effectiveness, and is not taught by most medical schools in the United

States. They are also called adjunctive, unconventional, or unorthodox therapies.

There are many general areas of alternative medicine. This paper will outline just five of

those general areas, and give examples of each. One area of alternative therapy is alternative

systems of medical practice. One example of this kind of alternative therapy is acupuncture.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of relieving pain and treating a variety of diseases by

inserting needles into various parts of the body. Insertion of the needles produces a momentary

pinching feeling. This feeling quickly disappears and may be replaced by occasional tingling or a

sense of numbness, heaviness, or soreness while the needles are in place. Acupuncture is used to

relieve pain and to treat various conditions, including arthritis, asthma, migraine, ulcers, eye

diseases, and some mental illnesses. Another example of alternative systems of medical practice

is ayurveda. This is a traditional Hindu system of improving health by using herbs, diet,

meditation, massage, and yoga to stimulate the body to make its own natural drugs. Strictly

speaking, it is not a treatment. Rather, it is an entire medical system whose goal is the prevention

of disease through the proper balance of three ?irreducible principles? at work in the body.

Ayurveda medicine encompasses a wide range of treatments and lifestyle measures, including

dietary recommendations, massage, medicinal herbs, and the meditation and breathing techniques

of yoga. It is designed to bring a persons ?tridosha?, or basic metabolic type, into balance.

Mind-body interventions is another type of alternative medicine. An example of this

includes meditation. Meditation is a deliberate suspension of the stream of a consciousness that

usually occupies the mind. Its primary goal is to induce mental tranquillity and physical

relaxation. There are many different approaches to meditation, each with its own specialized

techniques. Approaches to meditation fall into three major categories. They are transcendental

meditation, mindfulness meditation, and breath meditation. The calming mental exercises of

meditation are a proven antidote for stress, tension, anxiety, and panic. Meditation is also a

scientifically verified way to reduce high blood pressure and relieve chronic pain. Many people

find it helpful for headaches and respiratory problems such as emphysema and asthma.

Biofeedback is another example of mind-body interventions. Biofeedback is a specialized

training that allows people to gain control over physiological reactions that are ordinarily

unconscious and automatic. It is the use of special devices to convey information about heart

rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, muscle relaxation, and the like to enable a person to learn

to consciously control these medically important functions. Biofeedback is not a passive

treatment. It requires a persons intensive participation as they learn to control such normally

involuntary functions as heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, skin temperature, muscle

tension, breathing, and digestion.

A third type of alternative medicine is manual healing methods. An example of one of

these methods is chiropractic. Chiropractic is a system of health care that emphasizes the

relationship between structure and function in the body. Doctors of chiropractic believe that

good health depends, in part, on the normal alignment of the body?s parts, and that misalignment

can be a significant factor in illness. Proper alignment of the spine is considered to be of critical

importance because of its central role in the function of the nervous system. Chiropractic can

ease pain in the lower back, mid-back, neck, and joints. The pain can eventually subside on its

own, but chiropractic ends it immediately. Massage therapy is another example. Massage is the

method of manipulating the skin to produce helpful effects on the skin and underlying tissues.

Massage can improve blood circulation, relax muscles, stimulate nerve endings in the skin, and

promote a feeling of general well-being. Depending on how the massage is given, its effects can

be relaxing or invigorating. It is often used to promote healing of an injury or muscle soreness,

or to relieve tension.

Pharmacological and biological treatments is another general area of alternative medicine.

An example in this area would be chelation therapy. Which means taking a series of intravenous

treatments of the medication EDTA. People do this to help prevent potentially ?catastrophic?

complications of heart and artery diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and other problems caused

from poor circulation. Other common reasons people take it include prevention of some of the

general health problems associated with aging, and to help remove accumulation of heavy metals

from the body. Many people experience a dramatic improvement in blood flow and energy along

with a reduction of their symptoms after just a few treatments. Cartilage therapy is another

example of these treatments. This therapy is the use of clean and powdered connective tissue,

such as collagen, to improve health.

One last area of alternative medicine is diet and nutrition in the prevention and treatment

of chronic disease. Orthomolecular medicine is an example of this. Orthomolecular medicine

describes the practice of preventing and treating disease by providing the body with optimal

amounts of substances which are natural to the body. The key idea in this medicine is that

genetic factors are central not only to the physical characteristics of individuals, but also to their

biochemical milieu. Macrobiotic diets are another example of this area of alternative medicine.

This is an oriental-style vegetarian diet that is low in fat, emphasizes whole grains and

vegetables, and restricts fluids. These are some of the same dietary principles that have been

found to help prevent heart disease. The macrobiotic emphasis on fresh, non-processed foods

may prove helpful in dealing with certain food allergies and chemical sensitivities.

There are three defining characteristics of alternative therapies. An alternative therapy is

any intervention that:

~ Is not well supported by scientific tests establishing safety and effectiveness.

~ Is not taught by most medical schools in the United States.

~ Is not reimbursable by most health insurance providers in the United States.

A placebo is a substance that physicians sometimes use as a medicine, even though it

contains no active ingredients. A placebo brings out and improvement or even a cure in some

people. They look like real drugs, but most consist of only a sugar or salt solution. A placebo

effect is changes in behavior due to expectations that a drug will have some effect. In alternative

therapies, the reaction of the person is almost always a placebo effect. They believe that

acupuncture will cure them, so subconsciously it does. But it is not the acupuncture that heals

them, it is the endorphins that the pituitary gland releases that is really healing them. The

placebo effect is important in alternative medicine though, because without it, no one would

believe in and of the alternative therapies. The placebo effect also has an importance in

traditional medicine. For instance, a saline injection is 70 % as effective as morphine in reducing

pain. That?s why doctors sometimes prescribe placebos. The placebo effect relies on suggestion,

but the effect is not entirely imaginary. The body reacts to suggestions in ways that can alter

internal activities. These internal reactions, in turn, can alter behavior. So the placebo effect

plays a role in both traditional and alternative medicine.

There are many area of alternative medicine. And these areas do bring a lot of help and

relief to many people. As time goes on and these alternative therapies are used more and more,

they may eventually grow to become traditional therapies.

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