21st March 2021

This week marks National Complementary Therapy Week aimed at celebrating the practice of alternative therapy to help sustain health and wellbeing.  

Dating back from centuries and drawing from many different cultures, the complementary therapies approach diverges from mainstream medicine. It pulls techniques from a range of practices including whole medical systems, the mind-body approach, biologically based systems, maipulative and body-based therapies and energy therapies. 

Some complementary therapies such as yoga and meditation are well-known and widely practiced. However there are others such as ayurvedic medicine, hypnotherapy and reiki healing which are less widespread and sometimes garner skeptisim.  

For this blog we decided to explore some of these lesser known complementary therapies and evaluate their proposed benefits. 

Aromatherapy 

Ancient cultures in India, China, Egypt and Persia first practised the burning of aromatic plant components in resins, balms and oils.  

Nowadays aromatherapy is usually considered as the art of absorbing essential oils into the body through oil diffusers, inhalers, bathing salts, facial steamers or compresses and masks.  

It is believed that aromatherapy is benefical for managing pain, stress and anxiety, as well as soothing sore joints and headaches. It has also been known for alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy and improving hospice and pallative care.  

Some of the best known essential oils which cater to a wide range of needs include lavender, peppermint, ylang ylang and bergamot.  

Ayurvedic Medicine 

Ayurvedic medicine can often be mistaken in the West as a form of treatment which involves taking a bit of turmeric and other Indian spices. 

However, ayurvedya is much more than that and encompasses a 3,000 year old science of life which involves diet, massage, philosophy, exercise and energy forces called “doshas”.  

Ayuervdic treatment seeks to operate on a preventive approach focusing on each individual’s mind and body constitution. Daily and periodic regimes are then utilised to support that constitution and keep it in balance. 

Bowen Technique 

The Bowen Technique is one of the lesser known complementary therapies and involves the stretching of the fascia which is the soft tissue that covers all your muscles and organs. It is use to reduce pain, in particular frozen shoulders and knee, back and neck pain.  

The research around this therapy is limited and results are mixed in terms of whether the Bowen Technique does effectively reduce pain. 

However Bowen therapists do advise numerous sessions are needed so that the body has adequate opportunity to respond.  

Hypnotherapy 

Hypnotherapy involves being put into a trance-like state by a certified hypnotherapist who then guides you to change and therapuetic improvement by making suggestions whilst you’re in a state of hypnosis. 

It might sound all Derren Brown, but hypnotherapy rarely involves showmans or swinging pendulums.  

Research conducted in 2017 demonstrates strong evidence that hypnotherapy effectively treats pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia (Jensen, Jamieson, Lutz, et al, 2017). 

Reiki  

Sometimes the general perception of reiki healers is they’re a bunch of hippies with crystals. However, reiki healing dates back to ancient Japan and deals with the transfer of universal energy from the palm of the practitioner’s hands to the patient in a bid to unblock energy chakras. 

According to a 2014 review of randomized trials looking at the effectiveness of reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in adults, the authors found that evidence does exist to suggest strong health benefits of reiki (Thrane and Cohen, 2014).  

References 

Jensen, M. P., Jamieson, G. A., Lutz, A. et al. (2017). New directions in hypnosis research: strategies for advancing the cognitive and clinicial neuroscience of hypnosis. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5635845/  

Thrane, S. and Cohen, S. M. (2014). Effect of reiki therapy on pain and anxiety in adults : an in-depth literature review of randomized trials with effect size calculations. Pain Management Nursing, 15(4). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24582620/