Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Alternative & Complementary Medicine Articles

Tai chi for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that causes stiffness, pain, and mild inflammation in the affected joints. It develops when cartilage—the tissue that covers bones and acts as a cushion—deteriorates over time, eventually leading to joint damage. For the early stages of this condition, a variety of remedies may offer some relief when used in conjunction with or as an alternative to medication, including Tai Chi. Tai chi helps improve physical strength and mobility and promotes a sense of well-being. A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that participants with knee osteoarthritis who practiced tai chi twice a week had less pain and better physical function compared with study participants enrolled in a wellness education and stretching program. The tai chi class lasted 12 weeks, but the improvements were sustained a year later. These participants also reported less depression and greater well-being. Among other things, tai chi provides benefit by improving muscle strength and coordination, which leads to better joint stability. In addition, the mind-body aspects and breath control promote mental calmness, which may help to break the cycle of arthritis pain. More »

Supplements for rheumatoid arthritis

Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) requires more than just finding the right medications. Many people with RA find they are able to protect their joints and reduce discomfort through alternative and complementary therapies, including dietary supplements. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel, have anti-inflammatory properties. You can get omega-3 fatty acids by eating more fish or by taking fish oil supplements. Studies in which people with rheumatoid arthritis took fish oil supplements found that fish oil may help with tender joints and stiffness and may reduce the need to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. One study found that RA sufferers who took 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of cod-liver oil a day for nine months were able to reduce their daily intake of NSAIDs by more than a third. Be careful when using fish oil. Fish oil supplements may increase the risk for bleeding, especially in people who take medications to reduce blood clotting (anticoagulants). Talk to your doctor before taking fish oil supplements or greatly increasing your intake of fish. More »

Tai chi and chronic pain

Tai chi is a low-impact, slow-motion, mind-body exercise that combines breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. The practice dates back thousands of years. As you do tai chi, you move fluidly through a series of motions. The motions are named for animal actions, such as "white crane spreads its wings," or for martial arts moves. As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention on an area just below the navel. In the practice and theory of tai chi, this area is the body's storage point for energy, or chi. People typically attend tai chi classes once or twice a week to learn the postures, then perform them in class or at home. Sessions, which usually last an hour, begin with meditation and move on to the postures, which are done slowly. Body posture and deep breathing are key elements of correct tai chi. Regular, ongoing tai chi sessions confer the most benefit. More »

Yoga Balance Workout

Yoga does an excellent job of strengthening and stretching muscles essential for balance. The yoga poses described below challenge static balance, the ability to stand in one spot without swaying, and dynamic balance, the ability to anticipate and react to changes as you move. Successfully managing these tasks requires you to keep your center of gravity poised over a base of support. Focus on good form, rather than worrying about how many reps you can complete. If you find an exercise especially difficult, do fewer reps or try the easier variation. As you improve, try a harder variation.  Reps: 2–4   Sets: 1Intensity: Moderate to highHold: 10 breaths or 10–30 seconds Starting position: Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart and weight evenly distributed on both feet. Put your arms at your sides. More »

Yoga for pain relief

Yoga is a mind-body and exercise practice that combines breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. What sets yoga apart from most other exercise programs is that it places as great an emphasis on mental fitness as on physical fitness. People have been doing yoga for thousands of years. Given its history, several types of yoga have developed The most popular form practiced in the United States is hatha yoga — of which there are numerous variations. More »

Can you put off that knee surgery?

Surgery is not always necessary to relieve knee pain. The first line of treatment is three months of physical therapy. Physical therapy can be complemented with other means of pain relief. Shedding pounds reduces the pressure placed on the knee. Corticosteroid injections can temporarily reduce pain and swelling, which can make it less painful to take part in physical therapy. Acupuncture is helpful to some people. Some people find that chondroitin and glucosamine supplements relieve pain. More »

Sore back? Try a massage

Research suggests that when added to usual back pain care, massage can provide extra pain relief, better function, and quicker return to daily activities. It’s unclear what type of massage works best. For best results, ask your personal physician, family, and friends to recommend a therapist. Find out if a local hospital or medical center has an integrative medicine program with massage therapy. Check if the therapist is certified by a recognized professional group, such as the American Massage Therapy Association. More »

How Therapeutic Is Massage?

Massage is an ancient art that dates back to the dawn of civilization. The name is derived from the Greek word meaning "to work with the hands, as in kneading dough." And in 400 B.C., Hippocrates wrote that the physician must be experienced in many things, especially in rubbing. Medicine has come a long way since the Father of Medicine wrote those words. Doctors no longer rely on the laying on of hands to heal their patients. Massage has come a long way, too. Masseurs are no longer viewed simply as high-priced locker room specialists (much less as shady ladies who need dough of a different sort), but as therapists. Massage is respectable, but is it therapeutic? An estimated 25 million Americans visit about 90,000 practitioners 60 million times a year. Many feel better—but are they actually healthier?  It's a particularly interesting question for athletic men, who are increasingly using massage to treat exercise-related muscle soreness and to prevent sports injuries. More »