Alternative therapies for optimal well-being
Dr. Cassie Irwin
We’re at a pivotal time in the wellness world. As we gain greater consciousness of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, many of us are embracing alternative lifestyle practices, healing modalities, and technologies to facilitate a massive transformation in our individual and collective well-being. Growing evidence shows the benefit of alternative therapies rooted in nature, mindfulness, hands-on techniques, and even frequency healing. Researchers are investigating the human energetic biofield and how this may impact our physiological functions, thoughts, emotions, and overall well-being. Therapies that tap into the human biofield could be the frontier of a new era of healing modalities. As a naturopathic doctor, I’ve seen the remarkable changes that can occur when someone gets the right support at the right time. In some cases, people might have great nutrition, supplements, and stress management in place, but they don’t see the progress they’d like to. In my clinical practice, I’ve observed how incorporating some of the following alternative therapies can catalyze the healing response and facilitate significant change in how a person feels. Start with the therapy that intrigues you, is available to you, and is within your budget. For advice on incorporating alternative therapies alongside your medical care, chat with your naturopath, chiropractor, or other natural health practitioner.
Hydrotherapy is the therapeutic application of water. Hydrotherapy spas allow you to circulate among hot, warm, and cold pools to reduce inflammation, enhance the immune system, and promote relaxation.
Balneotherapy is a type of hydrotherapy that uses mineral-rich, gaseous water (such as a natural spring), paired with mud applications. Research strongly supports using balneotherapy for osteoarthritis, as well as cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, neurological, hormonal, dermatological, and stress-related conditions.
Sauna use, whether wet, dry, or infrared, is associated with reduced morbidity and mortality and increased “healthspan.” Frequent sauna use may protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease, as well as age-related loss of muscle mass.
Massage therapy involves the manual manipulation of the soft tissues. Many people find massage to be relaxing for the body and mind. Massage therapy may reduce shoulder pain and knee pain, and promote function among those with low back pain.
Reflexology involves the application of pressure to specific locations on the feet, hands, and ears. Reflexology may be effective for constipation; sleep disturbances; infantile colic; and pain, anxiety, and depression among cancer patients.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice, involving the insertion of hair-thin needles along specific locations on the body. Research abounds for the use of acupuncture for several conditions, including postpartum depression, insomnia, and tinnitus. Acupuncture also enhances overall well-being by increasing parasympathetic tone, which promotes relaxation, digestion, and repair.
Meditation has been shown to reduce pain, depression, and anxiety, while improving memory, cognitive function, and quality of life. Meditation is associated with having longer telomeres (the caps at the end of chromosomes), which are biomarkers associated with improved health and longevity.
Biofeedback is a technology designed to enhance the mind-body connection. Electrodes are applied to measure either skin temperature, brain activity, or muscle tension and show real-time physiological data about the efficacy of relaxation techniques. Research supports the use of biofeedback for constipation, headaches, hypertension, TMJ disorder, and ADHD.
Reiki is a Japanese healing technique classified as a biofield energy therapy. It involves the gentle laying of hands on or just above the body. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, reiki promotes a state of deep relaxation. Research supports the use of reiki for depression, anxiety, and pain. Anecdotal reports show reiki may minimize stress, while promoting spiritual well-being.
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) devices emit waves of electromagnetic energy, which permeate the body with the aim of reducing inflammation, modulating the immune system, promoting vasodilation, stimulating regeneration, and amplifying cellular electric potential.
This treatment is usually administered by lying on a full-body PEMF mat. Depending on the treatment goal, different frequencies can be delivered. Many people feel relaxed from treatment at 7.83 Hz (Schumann’s resonance), which is the electromagnetic frequency emitted by the Earth.
Research shows PEMF may help low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It has also been found to stimulate bone growth and repair after injury.
This technology scans the body’s frequencies to screen for dysfunction and then applies a therapeutic frequency to encourage health. Research suggests this may be helpful for depression, smoking cessation, and leg lymphedema.
Flower essences harness the vibrational imprint of flowers and trees. Bach Flower Remedies have been shown to reduce resting heart rate, improve sleep, and quell anxiety in kids and adults.
Tension and trauma releasing exercises (Tre®) use shaking and vibration exercises to release muscular patterns of stress, tension, and stored trauma.
Binaural beats deliver different musical tones into each ear via headphones; listening may reduce anxiety and pain, improve task performance, and enhance memory.
Structured water has been electromagnetically charged and carries a different hydrogen-bonding structure; early studies in animals suggest that drinking structured water may reduce oxidative stress and improve tissue conductivity.
Journalling throughout your alternative therapy journey can be therapeutic in itself. Taking the time to pause, reflect, and express how you’re feeling may enhance your awareness of and connection with your mind and body, provide perspective on where you’ve come from, and promote overall well-being.
Before starting a new therapy, consider writing about how you’re feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Consider the following indicators of well-being.
Give yourself a score between one and 10 for each indicator of well-being, with 10 being the best you can feel and one the worst you could feel. Once you begin your treatments, reflect on how you feel and write about the process. Update your scores every week.
After a few weeks of treatment, look back at your original scores. Did they change? In which areas have you improved? Which areas of well-being could benefit from additional support?
Progress can look different for everyone. Keeping a wider perspective on all aspects of your well-being through journalling can provide greater insight into the transformations that may be occurring right under your nose!