With today’s increasing costs, growing risks and the side effects associated with traditional medicine, consumers are looking for safer, more affordable healthcare options; options, which provide individuals more control over their wellness choices.

There has been a rising trend toward complimentary and integrative therapies over the past several years. Perhaps one of the main reasons for this trend is the patient/client-centered approach taken by most integrative practitioners. The uniqueness of the individual is considered in a comprehensive and holistic way. Employing the idea that chronic dis-ease in the body is created over time and is fueled by lifestyle, environment, trauma, and how one deals with and adapts to daily stress.

Below are seven integrative therapy choices that are making their way into mainstream healthcare and proving to be viable and effective treatment options.

1. Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT)

Chronic back, joint and muscle pain is a daily fact of life for far too many in today’s fast paced work-a-day world. The causes range from environmental and lifestyle factors such as poor posture, sports injury, repetitive motion, lack of rest, and an unhealthy diet, to medical conditions such as autoimmune disease, (e.g. Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Sclerosis), Arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases, depression, cancer, as well as pain causing side effects from medications including statins which are prescribed to millions of patients globally, to lower cholesterol levels.

Neuromuscular therapy, sometimes referred to as neuromuscular massage, myofascial release or trigger point therapy, addresses the neurological systems effect on the muscular and skeletal systems. The therapist uses soft tissue, (skin and muscle) manipulation, and firm specific pressure applied using the knuckles, thumbs and elbows.

NMT assessments and examinations primarily address:

            Ischemia (tight tissue with reduced blood flow)

            Myofascial trigger points (hypersensitive points within muscles that give rise to referred phenomena, including pain)

            Neural entrapment (pressure on nerves by muscles and other soft tissue),

            Nerve compression (pressure on nerves by osseous and other bonelike tissue, such as cartilage or discs)

            Postural assessment (assessment of the position of the body as a whole)

            Dysfunctional gait patterns (manner of movement while walking)

            Perpetuating factors (hydration, nutrition, breathing patterns, and psychological stress)

NMT applies a synergistic philosophy, meaning that it looks at the client from a holistic point of view. The therapist works on the premise that pain and dysfunction is caused by a combination of these three groups, biochemical, biomechanical and psychosocial being out of balance. When the focus is concentrated on all three groups, significant relief is experienced.

NMT has been consistently proven effective for those living with chronic pain and is often successful in reducing or eliminating long-term chronic pain. Particular techniques can be used for acute injury as well as rehabilitation care following surgery. NMT is often used as part of training protocol for athletes to improve performance and to prevent and treat sport specific injuries.

I have been a licensed Neuromuscular Therapist since 2000, and have seen very few therapies as effective and life changing as NMT. When used appropriately, It’s safe and effective for people of all ages, with all types of pain and physical restrictions. For example; athletes returning back to their sport fully recovered just 4-6 weeks following knee surgery, or severe tendon/ligament damage. A 90-year-old man, who could barely walk with the aid of a walker, with-in 4 weeks of beginning NMT attended his granddaughter’s soccer game, walking from the car park carrying his own chair. There are many more similar stories; I believe you get the point -it works!

2. Laughter Yoga

It seems that the old cliché’ “Laughter is the best medicine” turns out to be true.

According to laughteryoga.org, Laughter Yoga has been scientifically proven to provide the following benefits:

            6% reduction in blood pressure

            28% drop in stress level

            Good Mood and More Laughter: Laughter Yoga helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing certain chemicals from your brain cells called endorphins. You will remain cheerful and in a good mood throughout the day and will laugh more than you normally do.

            Healthy Exercise to Beat Stress: Laughter Yoga is like an aerobic exercise (cardio workout) which brings more oxygen to the body and brain thereby making one feel more energetic and relaxed.

            Health Benefits: Laughter Yoga reduces the stress and strengthens the immune system. You will not fall sick easily and if you have some chronic health conditions, you will heal faster.

            Quality of Life: Laughter is a positive energy, which helps people to connect with other people quickly and improves relationships. If you laugh more, you will attract many friends.

            Positive Attitude in Challenging Times: Everyone can laugh when life is good, but how does one laugh when faced with challenges? Laughter helps to create a positive mental state to deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to cope with difficult times.

 100 Laughter Yoga Exercises Video

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Dr Madan Kataria created laughter Yoga in in Mumbai India, in 1995. During his time as a researcher, he had come across a number of evidentiary resources, which supported the idea that laughter was particularly beneficial in promoting physical and mental health. Dr. Kataria, in his quest to find a way to incorporate laughter into the treatment protocol of patients as well as find ways for average people to use it to counteract the stress of modern day living, developed the technique that is now called Laughter Yoga.

Incorporating Yogic breathing with exercises designed to stimulate laughter, Dr Kataria and his wife, Madhuri, have included role-play as well as gibberish in the Laughter Yoga classes. 

I have attended a few of these classes in Abu Dhabi, and found them not only to be fun, but also more of a “workout” than I would have imagined. The exercises are not strenuous, but non-stop laughing for 45-60 minutes can work up quite a sweat, and burn a number of calories. I certainly feel it in my stomach muscles the next day. After the classes, I am so light and relaxed, usually for the rest of the day/evening. One hour of laughter can neutralize an entire day of tension. HaHaHa HoHoHo HeHeHe!!!

Laughter Yoga is available at Change Works AD Our Laughter Specialists; Kasey Conrad, Kathryn Armstrong, and Naser Al Riyami are available for Individual, Group or Corporate Sessions.

3. Sound Massage

Most of us are aware that sound can have a profound effect on us, for example hearing a police siren behind you while driving, a stranger’s baby crying, your baby crying, (there’s a difference, right), soft music, waves crashing onto the shore, these sounds stimulate specific emotions. Our emotions have influence over our physical and psychological well being at a cellular level.

We’ve all heard the term good vibrations. Our bodies are made up of approximately 80% water, taking this into consideration, we can imagine dropping a pebble into a still pond and witnessing the ripples moving out from the center, until the entire pond is in motion. This is how sound massage works. Tibetan singing bowls and sometimes gongs, are placed on or near the fully dressed body, then struck with a felt mallet, creating vibrations that reach every cell carried through the water in the body. This subtle vibration quickly brings relaxation and stress relief.

The vibration of the bowls can be focused to a particularly tense or painful area by placing the bowl directly on that point, the vibration moves through the area moving and rearranging stagnant energy, thus relieving the pain.

Sound massage is based on ancient healing therapies, dating back nearly 5000 years, whose premise is that humans were created out of sound. The rich deep tones of the bowls promote a feeling of being “in-Tune”, and this brings balance.

 The Sound of Zen - Sound Massage

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Sound massage can be effective for the following:

            Increased energy

            Pain relief

            Stress relief

            Meditation

            Creating balance

            Mental clarity

This video gives a lovely demonstration of a Sound Massage session, watch, listen and enjoy.

4. Ayurveda

When looking for holistic integrative medicine, Ayurveda ticks mind, body, and spirit boxes, arguably more thoroughly than any other, and is believed to be the oldest system of medicine on Earth. Ayurveda is made up of the Sanskrit words ayur, meaning life and veda, meaning science, literally meaning the science of life. Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in India since before written records were kept, and is still today, the primary healthcare system of most Indian people.

Ayurveda stresses balance in all areas of life. Be prepared when you visit an Ayurvedic physician, as you will be asked a lot of very personal questions, (including questions about bathroom habits and frequency), all of which allow the doctor to identify possible causes for symptoms of imbalance and potential treatment options.

Ayurvedic doctors use concepts based on the body’s unique constitution, (prakriti), the life force, (dosha), a combination of Vata, (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), or Kapha, (Earth and water), and the connectedness of being one with the universe to create an individualized treatment plan for everyone. Treatments consider the whole person, incorporating prescriptions for herbal compounds, yoga, specific massage techniques, meditation, exercise, and lifestyle and diet recommendations.

Diet and nutrition play a large role in Ayurveda, in keeping with a need for balance in all things, to achieve maximum health. The following six tastes are to be included in each meal to assure nutritional balance.

            Sweet-nourishes tissue and promotes strength

            Salty-maintains balance in electrolytes and water

            Sour-stimulates and supports digestion

            Pungent-supports digestive absorption

            Bitter-stimulates the other 5 tastes

            Astringent-aids in and supports absorption

Ayurveda asserts that your level of balance, therefore your level of health, is equivalent to the due diligence you give to your diet and lifestyle.

Join Change Works AD on December 4th and 5th for FREE seminars on how you can incorporate Ayurvedic principles into your everyday life.

5. Cupping

 Chinese Cupping Therapy - Michael Phelps Olympics Bruise Mystery Solved | Pain Relief and Therapy

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If you watched any of the men’s swimming events during the 2016 summer Olympic games, you no doubt noticed US swimmer Michael Phelps sporting a number of circular bruises across his back and shoulders. Although, it appeared as if he’d been shot with a beanbag gun, he had actually had a session of cupping therapy.

Although relatively new and mostly unknown to many in the Western world until recently, cupping therapy has been been practiced in some form since1000 BC, some estimate as since 3000 BC. This therapy has been widely used and extremely popular, in China and other Eastern countries since its inception. 

Cupping provides a number of health benefits, including but not limited to reducing stress, improving circulation, reducing and alleviating muscle tension, improved digestion, and reducing pain. Cupping focuses on areas of soft tissue, using local pressure applied to swollen or tense areas, and pain points. The shoulders, back, and abdomen are good places for application.

Cupping, is a good adjunct to other therapies, in particular Aromatherapy, massage therapy and acupuncture. Cupping can be used when a client is undergoing traditional medical treatment, such a chemotherapy and radiation.

Cupping is traditionally done using thick sterilized glass “cups” of varying sizes. Cups can also be made from plastic, rubber, bamboo, ceramic pottery, and even iron, however glass is most common. A flammable material, (cotton, specially selected dried herbs, or paper), is soaked in alcohol, held by long tweezers and lit on fire. The flaming material is placed inside the cup for up to 5 seconds, until the cup feels warm to the touch. The fire burns all of the oxygen inside of the cup, which is immediately placed on the selected area. The lack of oxygen creates a vacuum causing the cup, as it cools, to suction to the skin. The suctioning causes the skin to be drawn up into the cup, stimulating blood flow, releasing deep muscle tension, and opening pores. This process carries fresh oxygenated blood to the area, which promotes healing. The below video is a clear demonstration of a cupping session.

Hijama, is an Arabic form of cupping therapy, and is mentioned in the Hadith. Hijama is alleged to be “…a cure for every disease if performed in its correct time.”

6. Homeopathy 

Homeopathy is not a new practice, it was discovered in the 1780’s, by Samuel Hahnemann a German physician, and has been a staple of compimentary therapy ever since. However, due to a few of the reasons mentioned above, it is gaining renwed popularity among the mainstream population, looking for something outside of mainstream medicine. Homeopathy is said to be a complete system of medicine, safe, gentle and effective.

The word Homeo means similar, Pathos means suffering. Homeopathy is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’ or The Law of Similars, which states whatever causes the malady will also cure it. There are over 4,000 remedies created from plant matter, animal matter, and minerals. Some of the remedies are actually created from diseased tissue (Nosode’s). When being treated by a Homeopath, each person is viewed as an individual, unique in. Homeopathy treats each individual as unique and whole person, mind, body, and emotions so for each individual.

Homeopathic remedies are prepared using a process of Dilution and Potentization, which renders the substance harmless while retaining its healing properties. When this substance is given in Homeopathic form it can antidote or alleviate the symptoms and restore the body to optimum health.

According to Triona Coppinger, a 20 year Licensed Homeopath, “Homeopathic Medicine stimulates the body’s own healing, the potentized remedy acts to set this in motion and in doing so antidotes the state and shifts the person in their physical and emotional health back into balance in the person. In Homeopathy there is a Law called The Law of Similars (Meaning a similar substance that produced the same symptoms in a healthy person during the Proving as the client presents with is and this is given in a homeopathic form). Medicine uses the opposite eg Antibiotics, Anti-hypertensives, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants etc..(often suppressing the dis-ease in the body). This Homeopathic law never change’s, it’s been the same law for 250 years whereas in Orthodox medicine the theories are always changing.”

7. Aromatherapy

"Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul."  Robert Tisserand

Whenever I smell pipe smoke, it immediately sparks memories of my Grandpa Gus. My grandpa was a cigarette smoker; he had a heart attack when I was about 12 or 13 years old. His doctor told him he had to give up cigarettes, (which he actually never completely did), so he began smoking a pipe. His tobacco of choice was a cherry-vanilla blend that smelled heavenly. Once memories are triggered, emotions are triggered. I feel at once full of love and joy, followed quickly by a feeling of sadness and loss.

The science of smell is called osmology, from the Greek word osme, which translates to smell. Studies have proven that we as humans can differentiate approximately 3000 different smells, and our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our sense of taste. Imagine.

Our sense of smell is one of our greatest tools for survival. If you are in a deep sleep, your sense of smell will alert you to the fact that your house is on fire by recognizing the smell of smoke. If you’re about to eat or drink something that has soiled, your nose will alert you and save you from at the very least, an unpleasant few hours.

Most of us, whether aware of it or not, use Aromatherapy in our everyday life in a number of ways. Burning fragrant candles or incense, using aroma diffusers, placing bowls of colorful potpourri around our homes. All of these lovely aromas serve to make us feel good. Who doesn’t like to walk into a room and be met with a pleasant fragrance?

Aromatherapy uses essential oils, made from a variety of plant material, including flowers, leaves, stems, bark, seeds, roots, and the peels of citrus fruit, and is based on the theory that the inhalation of essential oils triggers the part of the brain that is connected to the sense of smell, the Olfactory system, which in turn sends a signal to the part of the brain that holds memory and controls emotions.

Essential oils are very versatile, and holistic, working on not only the emotions, but also the body and the mind. In the US, France, Canada, and a number of other western countries, Aromatherapy is integrated into mainstream medicine, used for their curative properties, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic.

Below is a short list of the most well-known and available essential oils and some of their recommended uses:

            Lavender oil for burns, stress, headache, restful sleep, and muscle aches

            Peppermint oil for digestive issues, increased energy, fever reduction, headache, and improved concentration

            Eucalyptus oil for clearing congested nasal and other respiratory passages, sore throat, muscle soreness, joint pain, and inflammation

            Tea Tree oil for fungal infection, influenza, bacterial infection, acne, and inflammation

            Chamomile oil for anxiety, migraine, insomnia, and acne

            Geranium oil for depression, anxiety, hormonal and menstrual issues, circulatory issues, and eczema

Aromatherapy can be used in several different ways, as massage oil, (a few drops of essential oil mixed in a carrier oil), a few drops on a diffuser, a few drops in a warm bath, or a few drops on a sachet. Massage therapists, chiropractors, esthecians, and many energy workers use essential oils with their clients/patients during treatments.

It’s important to note that essential oils should not be taken internally, or applied directly on the skin. 

Change Works AD Associate and Certified Aromatherapist Kasey Conrad offers a number of Aromatherapy Workshops to teach you to safely use Essential Oils to improve your everyday life.

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