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Complimentary Medicine: Types and Explanations

Published: 2011-01-21 - Updated: 2022-06-25
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Jump to: Definition: Complimentary Medicine | Main Digest | Publications

Synopsis: Information regarding various types of complementary medicine, which refers to forms of therapy that complement mainstream forms of medical treatments. From a complementary medicine perspective, health is often perceived as a balance between emotional, physical, and spiritual factors. Complimentary medicine seeks to restore a person's credit in these areas. The most common forms of complementary treatments people pursue in America include chiropractic care, acupuncture, naturopathy, herbal medicine, and homeopathy. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that forty percent of people in America and two-thirds of the world's population use alternative or complementary therapies.



Complimentary Medicine
The term 'Complementary Medicine' refers to therapy forms that complement mainstream medical treatments. The term is used to collectively describe any practices or treatments that promote a feeling of well-being in a person by re-balancing their body, increasing their energy levels, reducing the effects of stress a person experiences, or relieving aches and pains.

Main Digest

Treatments through complementary medicine focus on the base of the person's condition, the treatment of the symptoms the person is experiencing, and the finding of a permanent solution to the person's issues.

This article is from our digest of publications relating to Alternative Medicine that also includes:

Many people who experience chronic pain know that medications alone are often insufficient themselves where pain relief is concerned. Consistent pain often finds people seeking treatments that are outside the usual forms of Western medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that forty percent of people in America, as well as two-thirds of the world's population, make use of alternative or complementary therapies.

Even though the terms 'complementary medicine' and 'alternative medicine' are often used to mean the same thing by some, there are differences. For example, complementary therapies are used in conjunction with Western medicine, while alternative medicine is not. Where a person pursuing complementary medicine might take Western medications and manage pain through guided imagery, a person using alternative medicine might pursue a special diet instead of taking medications prescribed by a Western doctor.

While complementary treatment can include exercise and diet, it may also involve massage, biofeedback, acupuncture, or chiropractic care. The pursuit of self-regulation methods like yoga, relaxation training, or 'Jin Shin Jyutsu,' a process involving balancing a person's energies to increase their well-being and health, may also be pursued.

Health, from a complementary medicine perspective, is often perceived as a balance between emotional, physical, and spiritual factors. Complimentary medicine seeks to restore a person's balance in these areas. The most common forms of complementary treatments people pursue in America include chiropractic care, acupuncture, naturopathy, herbal medicine, and homeopathy.

Chiropractic Manipulation

Chiropractic treatments are administered by chiropractors, manual therapists, and osteopathic physicians.

The treatments involve the manipulation of a person's tissues through the manual laying on of hands. According to the International Chiropractic Association, the main focus is detecting, reducing, and correcting spinal misalignments and nervous system dysfunctions.

A chiropractor will attempt to find the cause of the problem and find a way to increase the person's body strengths to their greatest capacity without using medications or surgical intervention.


Biofeedback is a method people can learn that uses auditory or visual, 'cues,' in order to control their own biological responses to stress and pain. The method helps people to listen to their bodies.

A biofeedback trainer might use a device that detects signals from the person's muscles; for example, and translate the signals into a sound such as a beep, or perhaps a visual cue the person can recognize. If, for example, a biofeedback machine emits a sound or light each time a person's muscles become tense, the person can learn to associate the sensation they are experiencing with the level of tension. From there, the person can learn to relax their muscles, induce a state of calmness, and assist in relieving the pain they experience.

Some biofeedback devices assist people with learning how to control physical functioning such as their heart rate, skin temperature, brain wave activity, and even sweat gland activity.

Herbal Medicines

Herbal medicines are something many people reach for when they need relief from the symptoms they are experiencing. In America, herbal medicines are not required to meet any quality control standards, and the FDA does not regulate them.

Herbal medicines include products that may be taken by mouth and contain 'dietary ingredients intended to supplement a person's diet. The medicines may include minerals, herbs, vitamins, amino acids, botanicals, organ tissues, glandular, enzymes, metabolites, or additional items.

People who have allergies should read the labels on herbal medicines before taking them. It is also important to ask a doctor before taking herbal medicines.

Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine and thin needles into particular points along a person's body to diagnose, prevent, and treat forms of diseases.

The use of acupuncture began in China greater than two-thousand five-hundred years ago. Acupuncturists believe a form of energy referred to as, 'qi,' circulates throughout a person's body and that illness or pain is the result of a block of this energy from moving along particular pathways referred to as 'medians.' According to the practice of acupuncture, health may be restored through the insertion of needles along these meridians to remove the blocked energy flow and re-achieving the person's qi balance.

Acupuncture may relieve pain and can also be used with electrical stimulation.

Homeopathic Medicines

Homeopathy involves an alternative and non-toxic approach to treat illness while relieving discomfort in relation to many different conditions.

Homeopathic medicine was founded in Germany in the late 1860s and is based upon the use of the law of similars' to produce a healing response which is a principle that dates back to the time of Hippocrates.

The law of similars states that a substance that causes disease symptoms in an average person may when administered in homeopathic dilutions to a person who is ill, promote the same symptoms and initiate a healing response.

Homeopathic medicines need to be prepared in a specific way. The dilution used is dependent upon the symptoms that are being treated.

It is important to consult a doctor before pursuing homeopathic medicines because the mixture of medications may result in harmful interactions.

Using Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a practice that involves assisting a person in entering an altered state of consciousness and making suggestions to them while they are in this altered state that may lead to changes in their behavior.

If the person is experiencing pain, hypnosis might be used to alter the physical sensations the person is feeling.

A clinical hypnotist might use mental imagery to assist a person with visualizing the pain they are experiencing, then encourage them to imagine the images changing to healthy ones. The use of mental imagery can assist a person in managing their pain, for example.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a relaxation technique; it involves lying or sitting peacefully while imagining you are in a peaceful setting, such as a forest or a beach. Guided imagery is also referred to as 'visualization' and involves more than visualizing yourself in a peaceful setting.

The technique involves imagining yourself in the setting while being as specific as possible. It is important to imagine the sensations you experience, such as a warm or cool breeze, sounds you hear, sights you see, or textures you feel.

Specifics of your visualization are tied to the level of relaxation you will experience; the more specific you are with your guided imagery, the more your mind is actually in the place you are visualizing.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that can require some practice yet assist you in achieving complete relaxation.

Pursuit of this technique involves focusing on your toes and feet, intentionally tensing the muscles in them, and then concentrating on letting the tension release from each muscle. Do the same for each muscle as you move up your body until you reach your head, being careful about tensing muscles where you experience pain.

If you need to, avoid the areas where you experience pain and concentrate on relaxing the rest of the ones in your body. As the rest of your body relaxes, the areas where you experience pain will not feel as tense.

Naturopathic Medicines

Naturopathic medicine is based upon the principles of the healing powers of nature, focusing on the optimization of a person's wellness and the prevention of disease; it has been around for centuries.

Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are primary care providers who use forms of therapy that are commonly non-toxic and natural and include botanical medicine, homeopathy, clinical nutrition, physical medicine, counseling, hydrotherapy, and at times - acupuncture.

NDs must pass board examinations to be licensed as primary care providers. Naturopathic medicine may be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.

Relaxation Breathing

Using breathing methods to help your body relax and relieve your mind of everyday worries may seem silly or uncomfortable.

You can practice relaxation breathing by breathing in through your nose as you count to four, holding it as you count to seven, then breathing out through your mouth while you count to eight.

Relaxation breathing feels more natural the longer you practice. Slow and steady relaxation breathing may assist you in relaxing muscles that are tense. Focusing on your breathing can also help you to break a cycle of negative thinking.


Yoga was developed around five-thousand years ago and involves an exercise that focuses on physical postures referred to as, 'asanas,' and breathing exercises referred to as, 'pranayama.'

Yoga is an excellent way to improve flexibility and muscle time while developing good relaxation techniques and deep breathing. It is also a great way to relieve stress.

Yoga is an exercise program, and like any other exercise program, it is important to consult a health care provider before starting yoga.

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.

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Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Financial support is derived from advertisements or referral programs, where indicated. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.

Cite This Page (APA): Thomas C. Weiss. (2011, January 21). Complimentary Medicine: Types and Explanations. Disabled World. Retrieved September 26, 2022 from

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