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The Basics of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Otherwise known as CAM, complementary and alternative medicine is the term that is used for medical practices and products that are not associated with traditional standard care, such as medical doctors, health professionals, nurses and physical therapists, for example.

“Complementary” usually refers to using a non-mainstream approach combined with conventional medicine.

“Alternative,” on the other hand, refers the use of a non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 40 percent of adults use CAM therapies. Often times, CAM is known as “integrative medicine.”

Today we are going to take a look at some of the most common mind and body practices that are associated with CAM. These particular mind and body practices make up a large, diverse group of techniques and procedures that are either administered or taught by a trained professional or teacher.

Here are five examples of mind and body practices:

Massage Therapy  In a previous blog, we talked about the topic of massage therapy and its benefits for your aging loved one. In this type of therapy, a practitioner will manually manipulate the soft tissues of the body in order to prevent stiffness and relieve pain.

Acupuncture  This ancient technique works to stimulate specific parts of the body by inserting needles through the skin in those areas. Acupuncture has many healing qualities and can help to relieve chronic back pain, enhance the effectiveness of medications, and dull continual headaches.

Spinal manipulation  This practice is usually carried out by health care professionals like physical therapists, naturopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians and chiropractors. Through this technique, practitioners will either use a device or their hands to apply force to the spine or a joint to help restore joint function or to relieve back pain. The force is controlled and depends on how much the patient can withstand.

Meditation  This calming technique requires a person to focus his or her attention through mindful meditation or transcendental meditation. According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, meditation can help improve sleep just as well as prescription medications. Additionally, those involved in the study experienced a 20 minute reduction in the time required to fall asleep, and a more than 30 minute increase in total sleep time.

Relaxation exercises  Progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and breathing exercises are all examples of relaxation techniques. Through these techniques, your loved one will employ the body’s natural relaxation responses. These relaxation exercises offer a bounty of benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormone activities, decreasing fatigue, and improving mood and the ability to concentrate.

Through these five exercises, your loved one will be able to positively influence his or her body’s physical responses.

Here are some examples of the benefits of mind-body exercises:

  • Enhanced sleep
  • Decreased pain and anxiety
  • Decreased side effects of medical procedures
  • Increased sense of control and well being
  • Strengthened immune system and enhanced ability to heal

These exercises and therapies are not alternatives to medical or surgical treatments; however, they offer an alternative way to help the patient minimize pain and promote recovery. As always, consult your loved one’s physician prior to encouraging his or her participation in CAM.

Sources:

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/emotional-health/stress-relaxation/mind-body-exercises

http://seniorplanet.org/meditate-for-the-health-of-it/

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam

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