Alternative medicine is a term that describes medical treatments that are used instead of traditional (mainstream) therapies. Some people also refer to it as “integrative,” or “complementary” medicine.
About 40% of adults in the United States say they use some form of alternative medicine. But exactly what types of therapies are considered alternative? The definition changes as doctors test and move more of them into the mainstream.
By Elizabeth Kuster
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This article examines some popular alternative medical treatments and their potential risks and benefits.
This is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that uses needles to stimulate specific points around the body. The person who performs this therapy (an acupuncturist) sticks thin, sterile needles into your skin. The goal is to help your body’s natural healing process kick in. Studies show that acupuncture can be effective in treating a number of conditions, like neck and back pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, insomnia, infertility, and more.
This practice focuses on the body’s structure -- mainly the spine --and how it functions. A trained professional called a chiropractor uses different techniques to adjust (“manipulate”) your spine or other parts of your body so that they’re in proper form, or alignment.
The goal of chiropractic medicine is to ease pain, improve body function, and help your body to heal itself naturally.
Much of the research around it has focused on low back pain. But studies show chiropractic can also be helpful for a number of other ailments, like headaches, neck pain, joint problems in your upper and lower body, and disorders caused by whiplash.
These focus on the energy fields many people believe exist in and around the body. Included in this category are:
Magnetic Field Therapy. This uses magnetic or electrical fields to treat a number of musculoskeletal problems. Studies show that it can work for osteoarthritis and other pain conditions. It’s also been found to help fractures heal faster. Magnetic field therapy may not be safe if you’re pregnant, have an implanted cardiac device, use an insulin pump, or take a drug given by patch.