Bridges In Medicine
Karate Tai Chi
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture is an ancient technique that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. The painless insertion of very fine, disposable needles in points along meridians (pathways) of energy flow is intended to correct energy imbalances and thus restore a normal, healthy flow of energy in the body. Research has demonstrated that the acupuncture points and meridians correspond to low-resistance electrical pathways in the body. Interestingly, research has shown also that pathology is accompanied by abnormal electrical activity and that correction of the abnormal electrical activity can improve the physiology. Even though this link between energy and physiology has been established by researchers, the Western medical community has not been quick to embrace this concept. Currently, Western medicine attributes the benefits of acupuncture to the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins which alter the body’s chemistry. Regardless of whether you believe in an energetic or biochemical mechanism, acupuncture has been found useful for pain control, nausea associated with chemotherapy or pregnancy, drug withdrawal, stress reduction, managing asthma, gastrointestinal problems and menstrual disorders. Millions of individuals have reported the benefits of acupuncture for a variety of conditions and the World Health Organization has identified more than forty conditions treatable with acupuncture. There are many different styles and techniques of acupuncture. Currently, M.D.s and chiropractors can perform acupuncture in many states without formal training. To experience maximal benefit from acupuncture, it is important to seek out a well-qualified practitioner.
In the therapeutic setting, art is used as a type of non-verbal, symbolic speech through which persons can express themselves both consciously and unconsciously. Art therapy entails being with the client as artwork is created, observing the behavior, observing the use of materials, observing the image that is formed, and hearing the description of the image. All of these elements make up the image, and as the image is explained, the client is heard. Through this process the art therapist is informed of what is needed. Even for the most verbally articulate, image-creation is often a more powerful means of communication than words.
Traumatic events cause changes in behavior, coping strategies, memory, and emotional affect. These are accommodations to protect an individual from further injury, transformations necessary for survival. Unfortunately, these patterns may continue long after the initiating trauma has ceased. The coping strategies become debilitating and dysfunctional, preventing the realization of one’s full potential. In behavioral therapy, layers of learned behaviors, attitudes, roles and ego states are processed and released so that the psyche can recover from past wounds and beliefs. The therapy can work well with some stress related illness, compulsive and obsessive behavior, fears, phobias and addictions.
Since the 1960s, an impressive body of research has been accumulating that confirms the therapeutic value of biofeedback. Biofeedback uses a variety of devices to measure physical changes that signal the body’s state of stress or relaxation. Some of the parameters that are measured include heart rate, skin temperature, GSR (galvanic skin response—a measure of electrical conductivity), blood pressure, and even brain waves. Normally we are not aware of these activities, but when we are made aware of them through the aid of specialized equipment, we can learn techniques to consciously change the level of activity in these different areas. The techniques used can vary, but often include the use of imagery, conscious breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Eventually one can be aware of the various body activities without the aid of equipment and can use the relaxation techniques to keep the body in a more relaxed state while functioning in the real world. Biofeedback has been used successfully to treat a number of stress related conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, tension headaches, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic back pain and Raynaud’s syndrome. Biofeedback’s entry into the medical mainstream is proving to be very useful in the healing process.
Chiropractic is a century-old healing art form addressing musculoskeletal disorders and related conditions. Medical diagnostic procedures, including, but not limited to, X-rays of the spine may be utilized to assess the cause of dysfunction. Subluxations (misalignments) of the spinal column are adjusted through manual manipulation to restore joint mobility. By correcting structural imbalances and using adjunctive physical therapy, the body is alleviated of pain and allowed to use its self healing abilities. Though the maintenance of a healthy neuromusculoskeletal system, chiropractors place an emphasis on the prevention of chronic disease.
Cranio-Sacral therapy involves palpation of the bones of the skull and sacrum at opposite ends of the spine. It is thought that imbalances in the bones of the cranium (skull) and sacrum, through tension on the dural membranes can impede the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid and nutrients for the nervous system. By palpating these structures, detecting the imbalances and subtly adjusting the bones, practitioners attempt to re-establish the healthy flow of fluid and nutrients to the central nervous systems. Many practitioners also feel that this technique is energetic in that it removes energetic blockages and restores the normal flow of vital energy in the body. Craniosacral therapy has been used successfully to treat recurrent ear infections, head and neck injuries, headaches, hyperactivity and emotional trauma.
Curanderismo is Mexican/Chicano folk healing. A holistic health method, curanderismo is a creative process that uses culturally recognized techniques for diagnosis and treatment. The curandero or curandera (healer) considers social, psychological, physical and spiritual factors in dealing with disease. The healing interventions incorporate religious beliefs, including Christian and Native spirituality or a combination thereof.
Feldenkrais was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais. The Awareness Through Movement™ lessons guide individuals through movement sequences that quickly bring new awareness of oneself in action and new patterns of acting. People report improvement in posture, breathing, coordination and sensitivity with the use of this gentle non-invasive method. Many have reported reduction or elimination of chronic neuromuscular pain, improvement in mental and physical abilities and improved general well-being. Feldenkrais can be used also to help individuals with disorders such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
Herbal medicine, used since before recorded history, is one of the oldest and most widely used methods of healing around the world. Many modern pharmaceutical products were derived initially from plant/herbal sources. Herbal medicines can be very powerful and need to be treated with respect. Some herbal products when used inappropriately can cause hypertension, heart arrhythmias, liver or kidney failure, strokes and heart attacks, not to mention the more benign and common occurrence of rashes or gastrointestinal disturbances. On the other hand, many herbal products appear efficacious, cost effective and have little or no side-effects when used appropriately. Due to potential interactions between prescription medications and herbal products, it is very important to inform your physician of any herbal products you may be using. If you are taking anti-coagulants (blood thinners), anti-convulsants (seizure medicines), blood pressure medicine, heart medicine or certain anti-depressants, you need to be particularly cautious because their interactions with herbs could be dangerous. Currently, in North America, the herbal industry is poorly regulated and there is a lack of quality control, which means the products you buy may not have a predictable amount of active ingredient, may have harmful contaminants, and in some cases adulterants that are not listed on the label. For these reasons, it is helpful to consult with a knowledgeable practitioner for advice on the proper use of herbal products and identification of reputable products.
Homeopathy was first developed it in Germany more than 250 years ago using highly diluted substances from plants, animals and minerals as medicine. It is based on the precept that like cures like. While a Western trained physician would tend to recommend acetaminophen or some other medicine to lower the temperature in a patient with fever, a homeopathic practitioner would recommend a very dilute remedy derived from a substance that actually causes fever in a healthy person. The diluted remedy is given sublingually (under the tongue) and is thought to stimulate the body’s own protective healing response in a way somewhat analogous to an immunization. A homeopathic practitioner takes an extensive history from each patient to elicit the precise features of the illness as well as the unique characteristics of the individual experiencing the illness. A remedy is then chosen based on the specific, individualized needs of the patient. Response times range from minutes to months and the remedies can work in conjunction with other conventional and/or complementary medicines. Some energetic therapies, such as acupuncture and magnets, can interfere with the activity of homeopathic remedies, which may also be working through energetic means.
Karate Tai Chi
Karate Tai Chi is a new martial art form developed by Sensei Yasuaki Nagatomo. It combines slow, fluid movements and calm, regular breathing with self-defense techniques. Karate Tai Chi emphasizes being relaxed but focused, while following a series of movement or "forms." The graceful movements are designed to relax the mind and body, allowing the flow of the body's vital energy, or ch'i. The student has the feeling of a slow moving meditation, or "moving zen." New students are often surprised at how easily they attain this relaxed state. The movements use visualizations derived from natural elements such as wind, fire and water, for example, mimicking ripples on a lake or the sun rising. Soothing background music further enhances the techniques.
Massage therapy is one of the oldest healing arts. Through a variety of techniques (such as Swedish, STR [soft tissue release], NMT [neuromuscular therapy], Shiatsu, Tui Na, Prudden, MFR [myofascial release] and others), the therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues of the body for therapeutic purposes. Many benefits are experienced with massage including improved muscle tone, increased range of motion, decreased pain and release of physical and mental tension and stress. There is considerable research showing that therapeutic massage can improve physiology in ways that assist the body’s own healing process and prevent further disease. Massage has been incorporated into many health system with numerous techniques finding their way into various complementary therapies.
There are many techniques of meditation, which come from societies and religions around the world. The various techniques all share the process of focusing the mind on a particular object or activity while disregarding distractions. Much research has been done documenting the dramatic physiologic changes seen with the use of meditation. Dr. Herbert Benson’s books, The Relaxation Response and Timeless Healing, summarize much of the research in this area. The use of meditation has been shown to lower cortisol and adrenaline—the "fight or flight" hormones that are elevated in response to stress. While meditation may be used as a means of spiritual enlightenment in Eastern cultures, it is widely used in the West in a non-religious context to treat stress related conditions such as hypertension, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and chronic pain, among others.
Mind/body medicine is a broad field with many different mental techniques that have been shown to alter physiology. The typical kinds of responses recorded with mind/body interventions include reduced blood pressure, reduced blood clotting, elevated endorphins (which relieve pain and give a feeling of well-being), reduced cortisol and adrenaline levels (stress hormones that lower immunity and alter circulation), reduced muscle tension and improved circulation. Examples of mind/body therapies are behavioral therapy (counseling), biofeedback, EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprogramming), guided imagery, hypnotherapy, laughter therapy, meditation, NLP (neurolinguistic programming), and PNI (psychoneuroimmunology). An abundance of research is available on the effects of mind/body therapies. Some of the conditions that have responded favorably to mind/body techniques are allergies, angina, anxiety, asthma, back pain, depression, headaches, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and Raynaud’s syndrome. We are just starting to grasp how powerfully our thoughts affect our physiology and because of this growing awareness, we can expect the use of mind/body therapies to increase.
Naturopathic physicians are very eclectic in their use of a wide variety of natural methods of healing to stimulate the body’s own innate healing ability. The therapies used by naturopaths can include nutritional interventions, mind/body techniques, homeopathy, musculoskeletal manipulations, lifestyle modification, environmental medicine, acupuncture or herbal medicine, depending on the naturopath’s training and philosophy. Well-qualified naturopathic physicians have a solid grounding in basic sciences such as anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology that is similar to that seen in a conventional medical school. However, not everyone who calls themselves a naturopath is well-qualified. Currently, there are attempts to create a national standard that will be required for licensure in all states so that the general public will be protected from unqualified practitioners.
Nutritional counseling gives individuals more freedom to choose foods that promote vitality while continuing to enjoy the fun and favorite foods they are used to. Knowing what to eat and learning constructive ways to improve eating habits can help individuals to attain and maintain ideal body weight, reduce health risks, increase immune function and heal or prevent disease. The links between disease and poor diet have long been recognized, and good health is closely linked to the quality of food eaten by an individual. Nutritional counseling emphasizes knowledge and understanding of how different foods affect the body and an ability to make the choices needed for optimal health.
Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) undergo the same basic training as allopathic physicians (M.D.s) in terms of basic and clinical sciences. Osteopaths undergo residency training just as allopaths do, and the medical boards make no distinction between D.O.s and M.D.s when it comes to standards of medical practice. The difference is that osteopathic physicians have additional training in the use of musculoskeletal diagnosis and manipulation, which the allopathic physicians do not receive in medical school. Many D.O.s choose not to use musculoskeletal manipulations in their clinical practices. The osteopaths who have more of an interest in musculoskeletal manipulations include these in their practice, and tend to have a more holistic philosophy that is open to other natural healing methods.
Integrative Pharmacy entails a review of medical conditions, a review of all prescription medicines, and a review of natural medicines. Each category of medicines (prescription and natural) are reviewed separately, and then against each other, for: quality, safety, appropriateness, adverse reactions, dosages, interactions with other medicines, interactions with foods, administration techniques, and duplications in therapy. All medical regimens (prescription and natural) are streamlined and consolidated. Any changes in prescription medicines are coordinated with the prescribing physician.
Reiki is an energy healing form that was rediscovered in the late 19th century. Its basis comes from Japanese and Christian mystic traditions of "laying on of hands"; however, its delivery or effectiveness is not connected to any specific religious faith. The Reiki master allows positive energy to move through his or her hands into an identified problem area, thus moving the blockage or negative energy out of the individual receiving treatment. Reiki energy works to free the flow of energy within the entire physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual system. Intuition is used as a diagnostic and treatment tool. Changes in the patient are subtle at first and can include a sense of relief, relaxation, a release of anxiety and depression, and an increase in healthy breathing. Reiki works to restore healthy energy flow and movement within the body. In the past, the process of becoming a Reiki master involved years of training with an accomplished mentor. Recently, this process has been compressed into two weekend workshops. When dealing with subtle energies, years of training does not necessarily equate to greater proficiency if there is not an innate talent. On the other hand, even with innate talent, it is hard to imagine how days of training can be comparable to years.
Dr. Ida Rolf, an American biochemist, began to develop Rolfing in the 1950s after receiving osteopathic manipulation for a displaced rib. She concluded from her research that the physical structure of the body affects its physiologic and psychologic well-being. In a series of ten sessions, Rolfers "re-sculpt" the body through the manipulation of the fascia. The tissue is stretched and softened to reintroduce its suppleness. Once this happens, any misalignments are corrected and disorders caused by muscular tension and maladjustment are relieved. There is supportive evidence that Rolfing reduces stress, strengthens the body’s physical structure, improves nervous system functioning and corrects curvature of the spine. Treatment has also been known to release emotional trauma.
In 1960, Dr. Dolores Krieger learned from healer Dora Kunz the technique of laying on of hands (which she, in turn, had learned from Charles Leadbeater and Oskar Estebany). During the 1970s, she taught what she called "Therapeutic Touch" to her graduate nursing students at New York University in an attempt to personalize the patient–nurse relationship. At least 30,000 American nurses use this technique (or "Healing Touch," which is derived from and quite similar to therapeutic touch) to attune their healing energy with the patient’s in order to balance any disturbances in the patient’s energy flow. Evidence suggests that therapeutic touch can increase hemoglobin levels, relieve anxiety and tension headaches, and can reduce the effects of stress on the immune system. Increasing numbers of nurses throughout the United States, Great Britain and Australia are learning therapeutic touch or healing touch because of its effectiveness in aiding the healing process.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the oldest systems of healing in the world. The concept of balance, both internally and with the external environment, is central to health in TCM. The other central concept is that if the normal flow of life force ("chi") is blocked or out of balance ("yin" and "yang"), illness will result. By restoring the normal flow of chi with the appropriate balance of yin and yang, health can be restored. Maintaining this proper flow and balance is thought to prevent illness. Some of the therapies used in TCM to promote the balance and flow of chi include diet, herbs, acupuncture, Tui Na (a type of massage), T’ai Chi (a type of exercise), Qigong, and lifestyle modification. Attempts to translate TCM terminology into mechanistic Western terms can sometimes be confusing. Despite a lack of complete understanding (in Western terms) as to how TCM works, there are many studies documenting its clinical effectiveness for a wide variety of conditions.
Yoga sees all illness or dysfunction as an expression of imbalance and seeks to restore that balance. Yoga works to re-establish structural integrity by restoring or expanding the natural range of motion and creating the muscle tone and joint stability required to support mobility. As a result, pressure and stress on internal organs is relieved and their proper function is maximized. Yoga movements also indirectly massage the internal organs, helping to keep them healthy and vital. Yoga serves to promote a balanced movement and alignment of energy within the body, thus giving increased health to individuals who practice it. Studies have concluded that yoga reduces the frequency of asthma attacks, positively affects the heart and circulation, restores energy and benefits individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
"A structural acupressure system to evaluate and balance the relationship between energy and structure. The bridging of energy and matter exists in the level of the body and the mind and the spirit of a person and that any or all of these levels can be addressed [by Zero Balancing]" (Fritz Frederick Smith, Inner Bridges, 1986). While fully clothed, the patient receives gentle acupressure stimulation along energetic pathways. Similar to acupuncture, Zero Balancing integrates mind, body and spirit connections, and is especially applicable for problems such as fatigue, headaches, musculo-skeletal pain, and sleep disorders.
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