Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) interventions are health care approaches developed outside of mainstream-Western, or conventional, medicine. Used together with conventional medicine, CAM interventions can be used to bring awareness to the connection between your mind and your body, as well as for a variety of conditions ranging from pain to anxiety.
There are many CAM therapies and interventions available – some of these interventions include:
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment that consists of placing thin, sterile needles at specific points on the body for treatment of pain and illnesses. Acupuncture therapy has been shown to be beneficial for treating pain and nausea, as well as a host of other conditions. For many children, teens and young adults, acupuncture can be a potent pain reliever and assist in helping their body regain a more natural balance.
Acupressure is an ancient Chinese treatment that utilizes the principles of acupuncture. The same specific points on the body that are used in acupuncture are used in acupressure, but the points are stimulated with pressure from something other than a needle, like a finger or a small bead. Acupressure is used to relieve a variety of symptoms and pain.
Massage Therapy is a form of therapy that uses the gentle application of systematic touch, focusing on specific areas of the body, or the whole body, for the purpose of promoting healing and relaxation. Massage therapy reduces stress, relieves tension and pain and increases the circulation throughout the body. Patients may benefit from feelings of safety, comfort, well-being, enhanced self-esteem, and reduced anxiety and depression.
Hypnosis is a type of therapy that uses focused attention to help a person gain control over their mind and body for a desired goal. Hypnosis can be used to help manage pain, headaches, asthma, anxiety, abdominal pain, sleep issues, and many other concerns.
Reiki is a healing practice that uses light touch to help the body’s natural healing to occur through the flow of energy (or Qi). This technique may be used to maintain and/or restore physical and emotional wellness, such as relaxation, sleep and energy.
Aromatherapy is the use of pure organic plant extracts called essential oils. Aromatherapy is used for emotional, psychological and physical well-being. Essential oils are usually used on the skin or by breathing in the scent.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness emphasizes attaining a higher level of acceptance for the conditions of life, rather than focusing on dissatisfaction, and emphasizes the importance of being able to observe ones thoughts without judgement. (Yapko, Michael D. Mindfulness and Hypnosis: The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience. New York: Norton, 2011)
Guided Imagery is a type of therapeutic intervention that emphasizes the mind-body connection. Guided imagery is used by trained professionals who lead the patient through a creative sensory experience, using metaphors and internal representations that convey information. Using guided-imagery encourages an inward-focused state of mind and is a technique used for the purpose of healing.
Your medical team may suggest certain CAM interventions based on the approach that would best fit your needs. There are many other CAM interventions available including herbal supplements, and other mind-body techniques. Always tell your medical providers what CAM interventions you are using so your team can best care for your medical needs.
Nicole Parente, LSW is a medical social worker on the Advanced Illness Management team and in the Pain Clinic.
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