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Welcome to Natural Solutions magazine’s Health Practitioner Directory—the Internet’s largest database of integrative healthcare practitioners, with more than 40,000 listings all over the United States. You can easily search by location, modality or keyword. From MDs to NDs, acupuncturists to chiropractors, and many other healing modalities in between, you’ll connect with professionals in your neighborhood who will help guide you to optimum health.

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Acupuncture

Originating in China more than 5,000 years ago, acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is now also widely used in the West to heal and promote overall wellness. The system is based on the belief that health is determined by a balanced flow of qi (also referred to as chi)—the vital life energy present in all living organisms. Qi circulates in the body via 12 major energy pathways called meridians, each linked to specific internal organs and organ systems. Special needles are inserted just below the skin into these acupoints to stimulate the body’s healing mechanisms. This helps to correct and rebalance the flow of energy and, consequently, to relieve pain and to restore health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) cites more than 40 conditions that acupuncture can treat, including migraines, sinusitis, the common cold, tonsillitis, asthma, addictions, gastrointestinal disorders, speech aphasia, sciatica and osteoarthritis. Additionally, acupuncture is also useful, either alone or in conjunction with other medical treatments, in the treatment of headache, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, back pain, immune dysfunction, respiratory disease, depressions, sleep disorders, and hormonal imbalances.

In 1997, acupuncture’s credibility as a viable medical treatment was bolstered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which reclassified the acupuncture needle from “experimental” to “medical device” status, acknowledging that the acupuncture needle is a safe and effective medical instrument.

During the first acupuncture visit, the practitioner (a certified acupuncturist who may also hold additional medical training) will take the patient’s medical history and assess the state of health through various diagnostic procedures. After this diagnosis, hair-thin needles are placed in any of more than 1,000 locations on the body, generally with no more than 10 to 12 needles per treatment. Acupuncture is mostly painless, but sometimes a slight pricking sensation may be felt when needles are inserted. Some treatments last only a few seconds while others take 45 minutes or longer. In addition to the use of needles, other forms of treatment may be applied to acupoints, including heat and suction on the skin, a process called “cupping.”

Continued research on the effects and benefits of acupuncture show that this modality can be an effective primary treatment in healthcare as well as a useful adjunctive therapy. One of its appealing features is the relative lack of side effects when performed by a licensed acupuncturist. Today, nearly one-third of all conventional medical schools in the United States include content related to acupuncture as part of a required course.

—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Chiropractic

Chiropractic is the second largest primary health-care field in the world and one of the fastest growing. Its popularity is linked to the general, increased interest in wellness and holistic health, an awareness of the dangers posed by many conventional medical procedures and drugs, and the very high patient satisfaction that is a hallmark of the profession.

As is the case with many “alternative” or integrative medical systems, chiropractic focuses on the body’s innate healing abilities to generate overall wellness. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between the structure of the spine and the function coordinated by the nervous system, the relationship that affects the preservation and restoration of health. Misalignments in the spine can generate nerve interference, which in turn can cause tension and pain that diminish the body’s defenses. By making adjustments to the spine through chiropractic manipulation, normal nerve function can be restored.

At the heart of chiropractic care is the adjustment, usually administered by hand (chiropractic means “done by hand”). There are three levels of chiropractic care: acute care, the restorative phase, and the wellness phase. During the acute level, the chiropractor’s objective is to reduce stress damage to the spine and the nervous system. Adjustments can be as frequent as several times a week. The restorative phase begins after the spine is nearly or completely aligned, when it must be monitored to make sure it holds the adjustment. During the wellness phase, the patient has periodic examinations or adjustments to ensure that the nerve flow is not encountering interference from new misalignments.

Chiropractic is significantly safer than conventional medical care, and has been shown to be either as effective or more effective, particularly for specific conditions including back pain. To add to its appeal, chiropractic is less expensive than conventional medical treatment. For all of these reasons, more than 23 to 28 million people visit chiropractors each year in the United States to treat such disturbances as peripheral joint injuries, sprains, arthritis, bursitis, menstrual difficulties, ear infections, addictions, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, sports injuries, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory conditions, heart disease, the common cold, and even depression and schizophrenia.

—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Homeopathy

The celebrated German physician Samuel Hahnemann, known for his work in pharmacology, hygiene, public health, and psychiatry, founded homeopathy in the late 18th century. Reacting to the barbarous medical practices of his, day such as blood-letting  (the use of leeches) and toxic mercury-based laxatives, Hahnemann set out to find a more rational and humane approach to medicine. Throughout its 200-plus year history, homeopathy has proven effective in treating diseases for which conventional medicine has little to offer—notably the common cold and flu. Documentation shows homeopathy to be useful as well in the treatment of headaches, premenstrual problems, back pain, pregnancy, inflammation, diseases of the digestive system, respiratory infections and fatigue.

Homeopathy is based on the theory of known as the Law of Similars, or Like cures Like. What this means is that patients are administered minute substances that would, if given in large doses, produce the symptoms of the illness from which they suffer. Homeopathic remedies are generally dilutions of natural substances such as plants, minerals and animals and these remedies specifically match various symptom patterns of specific illnesses. Once administered, they act to stimulate the body’s natural healing response. Interestingly, the more a substance is diluted, the higher its potency. This counters the general assumption in conventional medicine that the higher the dose of medicine, the more powerful will be its effect.

Homeopathy recognizes that an illness is specific to the individual, which is the foundation of the holistic medical model.  While a conventional medical treatment of headache, for example, is mostly the same for all sufferers, homeopathy addresses more than 200 symptom patterns associated with headaches and offers corresponding remedies for each. To help in their diagnosis, homeopaths consult vast compendiums called repertories and materia medicas to determine the remedy that most closely matches the overall state of the patient’s symptoms.

In Europe, homeopathy is widely recognized as a viable medical therapy; in Germany, for example, homeopathy is required training for all medical students. In the United States, an estimated 3,000 medical doctors and licensed healthcare providers practice homeopathy, and that number is rising. This is facilitated by the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now recognizes homeopathic remedies as official drugs and regulates their manufacturing, labeling, and dispensing.

—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Integrative/Holistic MD

Integrative medicine, once called alternative and complementary (CAM) medicine, refers to the “integration” of various natural modalities with conventional ones. It is based on a model of “holistic” medicine, which refers to a wide scope of healthcare modalities that emphasize wellness through the prevention of disease and illness using healthy habits that support physical, mental and spiritual health.

In the broadest sense, integrative/holistic medicine simply denotes approaches to health and healing that do not rely on drugs, surgery and/or other common conventional medical procedures for treating illness. This is not new idea: as early as 5000 BCE, physician-sages were formulating the holistic healing traditions of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine (from India). These systems recognized that health represented a harmonious balance within the body, mind, and spirit.

There are 12 principles of holistic healthcare, established by the board of trustees of the American Holistic Medical Association:

  • To embrace a variety of safe, effective diagnostic and treatment options.
  • To search for the underlying causes of disease rather than to treat symptoms alone.
  • To expend as much effort in establishing what kind of patient has a disease as in establishing what kind of disease a patient has.
  • To understand that prevention is preferable to treatment and is usually more cost-effective. And, the most cost-effective approach evokes the patient’s own innate healing capacities.
  • To view illness as a manifestation of a dysfunction of the whole person, not as an isolated event.
  • To understand that a major determining factor in the healing process is the quality of the relationship established between physician and patient, in which the patient is encouraged to take responsibility for his or her health.
  • To consider the needs, desires, awareness and insight of the patient, as well as those of the physician.
  •  To understand that physicians significantly influence patients by their example.
  • To view illness, pain, and the dying process as learning opportunities for both patients and physicians.
  • To encourage patients to evoke the healing power of love, hope, humor, and enthusiasm and to release the toxic consequences of hostility, shame, greed, depression, and prolonged fear, anger, and grief.
  • To see that unconditional love is life’s most powerful medicine. Holistic physicians strive to adopt and attitude of unconditional love for patients, themselves and other practitioners.
  • To regard optimal health as much more than the absence of sickness. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of human experience.

—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Massage/Bodywork

For centuries, the therapeutic use of touch has healed the body and reduced the tensions of daily life. Today, there are more than 100 schools of bodywork modalities, including therapeutic massage, Rolfing ®, Feldenkrais Method™, Hellerwork, Reiki, reflexology, bioenergetics, deep-tissue manipulation, and movement awareness. All are employed to improve the structure and functioning of the body. Some therapies focus on physical manipulation of body structures while others focus on the manipulation of the body’s energy fields. Others still use awareness and learning as the basis for improving body movement and functioning.

In all of its forms, however, the benefits of bodywork include pain reduction, relief of musculoskeletal tension, improved blood and lymphatic circulation, and the promotion of deep relaxation. Most modalities are based on one or more of the following principles or techniques:

  • The use of pressure or deep friction to alter the muscular and soft tissue structures.
  • The use of movement to affect physiological structure and functioning.
  • The use of education and awareness to change or enhance physiological functioning.
  • The use of breathing and emotional expression to eliminate tension and to change physiological functioning.

Therapeutic massage can address—either used as a sole treatment plan or as an adjunct treatment along with other applications—a vast range of complaints. Studies, for example, show that massage can be used for the condition of arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia, pain control, swelling, spinal curvature, and soreness. Bodywork systems that fall within the field of somatic psychology focus on the interrelationship between body and mind. Today, the majority of bodywork practitioners combine methods to create the most suitable and effective treatment plan for the individual.

—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Naturopathy

Naturopathic medicine treats disease by utilizing the body’s inherent ability to heal. Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s) aid the healing process by incorporating a variety of treatment options based on the patient’s individual needs and on the patient’s diet, lifestyle, work, and personal history. All of these factors are considered and will figure into the determination of the treatment regimen. This is why naturopathic medicine is not a single modality of healing; rather, it embraces a range of practices including diet and clinical nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, therapeutic exercise, spinal and soft-tissue manipulation, physical therapies involving electric currents, ultrasound and light therapy, therapeutic counseling, and pharmacology.

Drawing from the healing traditions of cultures from around the world including Indian (Ayurveda), Chinese (Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM), Native American, and Greek (Hippocratic), naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine based on six time-tested principles:

  • The healing power of nature
  • Treat the cause rather than the effect
  • First, do no harm
  • Treat the whole person
  • The physician is a teacher
  • Prevention is the best cure

Naturopathic physicians understand that the signs and symptoms of disease are also manifestations of the body’s attempts to heal itself. Fever and inflammation, for example, are viewed as the body’s way of dealing with an imbalance that is undermining health. If the cause of the imbalance is not removed, the inflammatory responses will continue, either at a lower level of intensity or intermittently and can lead to chronic disease. The mind, body, and spirit are considered a holistic, interconnected system of good health, and thus naturopathic physicians say they heal the person, not the disease. While naturopathic medicine can be applied in any healthcare situation, it is strongest in the treatment of chronic and degenerative disease.
N.D.s attend a four-year graduate-level naturopathic medical school. They’re trained in all the same basic sciences as M.D.s, according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
  
—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Osteopathy

Developed in 1874 as an alternative to the medical practices of the time, osteopathic medicine is the oldest system of health care to originate in the United States. Osteopathic is a physical medicine that helps restore the structural balance of the musculoskeletal system. Combining joint manipulation, physical therapy and postural reeducation, it effectively treats spinal and joint difficulties, arthritis, digestive disorders, menstrual problems and chronic pain. Also known as osteopathy, this system of medicine, like naturopathic medicine, treats the whole person rather than narrowly focusing on a specific ailment.

Doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s) focus on enabling the body’s innate self-healing mechanisms to operate more effectively. While osteopathy is very effective in treating pain and chronic illness, it typically looks for the deeper causes underlying serious health conditions. For example, a D.O would consider heart disease to have a musculoskeletal component in addition to other such issues as diet and lifestyle. That is, any mechanical restriction in the physical body can influence entire systems and organs.

Diagnosis of structural problems within the musculoskeletal system and corresponding manipulation treatment are the most fundamental aspects of osteopathic medicine. But it is a truly holistic system—the system blends conventional medicine, surgical and obstetrical practices with osteopathic manipulative treatments providing a comprehensive system of health care.

Today, there are more than 44,000 D.O.s in the United States and many more thousands around the world. They carry the same license and offer the same scope of practices as M.D.s.

—Excerpted from Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition, published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

 

Physical Therapy

Therapeutic exercise and functional training are the cornerstones of physical therapy treatment, according to The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Physical therapy refers to a host of modalities that focus on therapeutic, physical manipulation of the body to improve health. Physical therapists (P.T.s) may use massage, joint manipulation, Feldenkrais, hydrotherapy, ultrasound, Pilates and many more treatments in the patient’s wellness and fitness programs.

Physical therapy is useful in treating many conditions, including injury rehabilitation, the condition with which it may be most widely associated. In fact, physical therapy can be used in a treatment plan for such conditions as osteoporosis, stroke, Parkinson's disease, burns, cardiopulmonary and circulatory conditions, and repetitive stress disorders (source: APTA). Depending upon the condition, the PT may use a combination of treatment systems and advise specific exercises that the patient can perform at home in order to maintain mobility and wellness. Treatment options might include:

  • Feldenkrais Method: The notion of “self-image” is central to this technique. All movement reflects the state of the nervous system and is also the basis of self-awareness. We become accustomed to our movements, good or bad, and this can lead to physical and emotional problems. Feldenkrais interrupts negative habitual patterns of movement in order that the body will learn to function with greater ease, fluidity, and motion. The breath is very important in Feldenkrais treatment. Poor movement and poor functioning impairs breathing, and improper breathing interferes with the proper functioning of the body.
  • Hydrotherapy: This system relies on the use of water, ice, steam, and hot and cold temperatures to maintain and restore health. Treatments range from hot or cold compresses applied to specific parts of the body to a full immersion of the body in water.
  • Hands-on manipulation: This is the cornerstone of physical therapy. Through manipulation of joints and soft tissue along with other modalities such as compresses and balance training, the PT seeks to restore the body’s mobility.
  • Ultrasound: This system uses a machine to produce high-frequency heat waves that are applied to the body.

P.T.s hold a graduate degree from an accredited physical-therapist program and take the national licensure examination that allows them to practice, according to APTA. Some P.T.s will choose to specialize in one area such as sports medicine, geriatrics or pediatrics.

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