Top 5 Wellness Therapies that are Medicine Friendly
For many, wellness and medicine are like those estranged cousins who only see each other at family barbecues once or twice a year. They share a clipped and patronizing exchange at the potato salad station, after which they return to their preferred familial orbits to trash each other for the rest of the afternoon.
One decries an overreliance on addictive prescription medication and invasive treatments. The other dismisses anything that hasn’t been subjected to decades of scientific research.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are many non-invasive, alternative therapies available that, when incorporated with conventional medicine, can help treat everything from chronic back pain, fibromyalgia and diabetes to migraines, menstrual cramps and insomnia. As it happens, we’ve compiled 5 of them for you below.
Most of us are familiar with this ancient Chinese practice, at least visually: An acupuncturist inserts very thin needles through the skin at strategic points around the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, these correspond to the thousands of acupoints found along the body’s 14 major meridians, or energy (Qi) channels.
Western medicine views acupoints as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Doing so boosts endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) and neurotransmitters (which regulate mood).
Acupuncture is traditionally thought of as a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). More recently, it has been used in integrative medicine, or, in conjunction with standard medical treatments, and is held to the same HIPAA standards.
Studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment both alone and in tandem with conventional medicine to treat:
- Post-chemotherapy nausea & vomiting
- Dental pain
- Headaches & migraines
- Labor pain
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Menstrual cramps
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
Cupping is another ancient form of alternative medicine. It can be thought of as a cousin of acupuncture in that it also employs meridians and acupoints to regulate the flow of energy (or, Qi) and relieve pain.
How it works: A therapist places several special cups on the skin. These cups are either heated first with fire or manually pumped to create suction, which creates the sensation of a deep massage. They are left on the skin for several minutes, after which:
- Muscles & connective tissues decompress
- Blood circulation is increased in affected areas
- Pain and inflammation are reduced
- Relaxation and a sense of overall well-being take over
Cupping is also widely used to treat musculoskeletal injuries, such as strains, sprains and back injuries. Elite athletes, including Olympic swimmer and 23-time gold medalist, Michael Phelps, use it to aid their recovery.
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Indian health care system that espouses a natural and holistic approach to physical and mental health. Central to Ayurveda are the three Doshas, or energy types, present in all people: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
The goal is to keep your Doshas in balance, which requires a general lifestyle overhaul that includes:
- Yoga & transcendental meditation
- Ayurvedic massage
- Treating the skin with herbal oils
- A vegetarian, or Dosha-specific diet
- Herbal medicines
- Ayurvedic cleansing
Some studies have found that Ayurveda lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, slows the aging process, and speeds illness recovery. Many herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine have antioxidant properties and may help protect against long-term illnesses, such as heart disease and arthritis.
These herbal supplements are strong and can react poorly with certain medications. They may also contain metals and minerals that can cause allergic reactions in certain people. Be open with your physician and Ayurvedic practitioner about any medications you’re on, allergies you have or supplements you are taking.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF)
The longest name on this list, PEMF is a form of cellular therapy that uses a machine to deliver bursts of low-level magnetic energy waves to a person’s body. These provoke electrical shifts in and around the body’s cells, which are thought to “recharge” them and stimulate the natural healing process.
PEMF therapy is often used to help manage stiffness and lower back pain. It may also help with:
- Blood circulation
- Inflammation & swelling
- Other forms of chronic pain
- Sleep issues
- Exercise recovery & performance
NASA even found that PEMF can be used to help returning astronauts reacclimate to Earth.
While PEMF is very safe and has no known side effects, it is not recommended for pregnant women or people with pacemakers, insulin pumps, or other electrical implants.
Hydrogen Inhalation Therapy
Like PEMF, hydrogen inhalation therapy (or H2 therapy) is a form of cellular rejuvenation therapy that involves breathing hydrogen administered by a generator.
A bit of (remedial) science: Molecular hydrogen (H2) is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also so small that it can easily cross cell membranes and access parts of the cell that other antioxidants are too large to reach.
Once inside, hydrogen removes harmful free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging) by reducing oxidation stress (an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production of free radicals).
Hydrogen inhalation can:
- Improve lung function
- Prevent airway inflammation
- Reduce fatigue
- Improve cognitive function
- Strengthen immunity
- Improve sleep
- Combat depression
- Enhance athletic performance
According to a 2018 study, molecular hydrogen may enhance critical care medicine. It has also been used in the management of chronic diseases, like metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases.
None of the treatments mentioned above are meant to replace standard, conventional medical care—especially when treating serious conditions. But they are accessible, generally affordable services that complement existing treatment plans and help us achieve a healthier lifestyle. All have been, and continue to be, studied by the scientific community.
Consult your primary health care provider before undergoing any of these treatments, especially if you are doing so to treat a specific ailment. Treat every service provider with the same scrutiny you would a regular doctor: Find out how long they have been in practice and where they received their degrees and certifications.
Healthy skepticism and open-mindedness can work together in making an informed choice–and you’ve got plenty of options to choose from.
Here’s to your health and wellness!