Western medicine is a miracle of science in many ways. The research and technology that have grown and developed through it are amazing; however, there are side effects to all this progress. Reactions to immunizations, outbreaks of more virile infections and overpopulation are becoming more troublesome.

There are also environmental concerns such as medicine finding its way into our water sources and medical waste washing up on beaches. The cost for treatment can be as financially debilitating as a disease is physically. There are alternatives to pills and scalpels, and they do work.

Massage & Acupuncture
Massage uses pressure and friction on muscles to induce healing and relaxation. There are different styles, each appropriate to a different situation. Swedish massage uses a comparatively light touch, its texture and rhythms appropriate for melting stress and inducing relaxation. Sport massage utilizes a deeper touch and is therapeutic to muscles after working out, where the knots in muscles are encouraged to release their Velcro-like grip on their own internal fibers. This leads to less activity-related soreness, as well as faster recovery and growth. Deep tissue can be perceived as a painful experience; however, the recipient is generally greatly relaxed and refreshed once particularly persistent knots have been forced to exhaust themselves and release.

Reflexology and meridian therapy focus on massaging particular points in the hands and feet, which are connected by nerve bundles to other parts of the body. An interesting experiment for people with headaches: Using the thumb and first finger of one hand, squeeze the muscle between the thumb and first finger on the other. Dig into the belly of this muscle. If it hurts, consider massaging this point in your hand to relieve shoulder, neck and head pain.

Acupuncture makes use of needles that are inserted into that skin in various places on the body. Acupuncture makes use of the theories of meridians mentioned in reflexology, but rather than simply massaging these pressure points, they are actually penetrated and encouraged to relax at a very deep level.

Chiropractors are doctors. Chiropractors do not snap necks and pop bones. Adjustments are made only when misalignment and pressure is first diagnosed and the body site prepared. Massage and electro-therapy are often used before, or in place of, joint manipulation. The relief provided by chiropractors corrects pinched nerves, misaligned vertebrae, herniated discs and muscle soreness. Range of motion is often quickly, if not immediately, restored in simpler situations, but multiple sessions over a longer frame of time will be required for complicated injuries.

Aromatherapy & color therapy
Animals are affected by scent. Humans are animals. Ergo humans are also affected by scent. This is true when you walk past a bakery, smell a sexy person’s perfume/cologne or when you get a whiff of road kill. Smell is one of our underdeveloped senses but it is still an important one. We receive only about three percent or less of our information about the world from our noses but that feedback is critical to us. If there is smoke in an office building, we often smell it before we see it, feel the heat or hear the roaring. Smell is powerful. It makes sense then that aromatherapy is an effective way to alleviate the symptoms of depression, fatigue, moodiness, anger, fear, anxiety and a host of other “negative” feelings. Only about 400 plants are useful for aromatherapy purposes. Only about 40 give essential oils that can be used (in diluted form) on the skin. Use only natural essential oils, not bio-equivalent aromas (which are synthetic and generally lacking in most of the properties that make essential oils effective).

Even more important than smell is sight. We receive nearly 90 percent of the information about the world from our eyes. Color is a significant part of that. It affects mood easily and so it is true that if you are already feeling “blue” you should avoid wearing it, looking at it and spending time in places colored primarily by it. On the other hand, if you are feeling a touch of manic energy, blue can help calm your nerves.

As mentioned in a previous installment of Health & Wellness: Medical Wellness, stress takes many forms and no matter their sources or causes, they generally contribute to negative physical symptoms. It is important to calm the mind in order to care for the body. Meditation, when practiced at home, is a free form of treatment that you can enjoy whenever you choose to make the time for it. If you prefer commitment or structure, consider joining a class.

Jack Kirven holds an MFA in Dance from UCLA and was nationally certified in personal fitness training through NASM for six years.
— Q-Notes’ “Health and Wellness” column rotates between physical fitness, spirituality, green living and medical wellness.