Complementary Therapies

Have you been working out? You look great! Have you lost weight? Feel better yet? Oh wait, what?  Oh, it's not complimentary therapy? Sorry, my bad!

Complementary therapies (with an E) are often seen as an alternative treatment for many different conditions. They're referred to 'holistic' as they usually take into account your whole self and 'alternative' because they don't necessarily fit in with traditional medical thinking (or 'western' medical thinking at least). They often have origins in other cultures, other countries, various belief systems or may have been passed down through the ages.

Despite not being fully embraced by all, many people genuinely believe they benefit their mental and physical wellbeing, help them relax and promote a positive state-of-mind.

That said, there is little definitive, scientific evidence for their success, but that doesn't mean you should disregard them out of hand. We mention them here purely for information and have no experience or knowledge either way for their validity.

WHAT ARE COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES?

There are a number of complementary therapies that claim a multitude of different things. Many of them work on the basis that the body can heal itself, given the right conditions. Many of them are specifically tailored to the individual, rather than being a 'one-size-fits-all' treatment.

As we said, most of them will have little or no research or scientific basis for their claims. Chances are they won't have even been tested in the same way as traditional medicine, nor will they be regulated. It will be worth asking the question of your alternative therapist to ascertain their qualifications before committing to any sort of treatment.

Dollarphotoclub_32661506.jpg

HOW CAN COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES HELP?

You probably won't find alternative therapies as part of your official care / treatment plan or even available within the governmental health service in your country (or maybe they are - please let us know!). That doesn't mean to say they won't work for you.

They probably shouldn't be used as the sole treatment for any mental health condition, but they might help with side-effects of your medication or to help you relax.

Please also bear in mind that this isn't a complete list (and listed only in alphabetical order) by any stretch, but it does aim to highlight the most popular complementary therapies available.

Acupuncture

If you have a phobia of needles, acupuncture probably isn't going to be for you. It is based on Chinese traditions and involves ultra-thin, sterilised needles being inserted (not all the way) into your skin.

The idea behind it is that practitioners believe the body has a flow of energy, called a 'qi' (I think this is different to 'the force'). When you're in pain, either through physical injury or mental illness, this energy can't flow around your body as freely as it should and becomes imbalanced.

The needles are inserted in particular places, depending on your condition, to rebalance your qi and help your body heal itself. It can be treated for physical injury such as back problems, but also mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and, some say, even schizophrenia.

Aromatherapy

As the name suggests, aromatherapy is concerned with the use of essential oils, or more precisely, the aromas they give off.

The oils are either rubbed directly into your skin, added to a hot bath, burning them over a flame (obviously) or just inhaling their aromas.

As you would expect, different oils have different therapeutic effects. Research has shown that they can be useful in treating depression and certain anxiety disorders. They can also be used to make your room smell nice if you've been a little negligent on the whole 'tidying up' thing. Every cloud eh!

Energy Healing

Energy healing (aka spiritual healing) works in similar foundations to acupuncture, but without the needles. You may have heard of Raiki, which is a form of energy or spiritual healing.

Those who practice energy healing believe there is both a physical body and an energy body, but it's the energy body that affects your mental health. Energy healing aims to fix the energy body. Still with us? Good.

By placing their hands over (not on) particular areas of your physical body, they try to heal your energy body. Whilst it might not help your depression per se, many people do find it particular relaxing.

Homeopathy

Homeropathy is the study of Homer J. Simpson, lead character of The Simpsons animated series...oh wait. No, sorry. Got that wrong. Let's start again.

Homeopathy are herb, plant or mineral-based medicines that have been highly diluted or dried and ground into powder. There are different types of homeopathy, based on Western, Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) medicines. Again, they work under the acceptance that, given the right conditions, the body can heal itself.

As their basis is derived from plants, people believe that they offer a more natural solution than man-made pharmaceuticals and have less side-effects.

Massage

Massage is probably the most well-known of these so-called alternative therapies. Many of you may well have given, or received, a massage already, either for purely relaxation purposes, to ease an aching joint or to win brownie points with the other half in the past. If that's you, you'll already be well aware of the relaxing nature of massage, but maybe not realised it can help your mental health too.

Massage isn't just pushing and rubbing on the skin. It uses sensitive touching and kneading in a structured way to relax your muscles and calm your body.

There are different forms of massage that are designed to illicit a particular response. Shiatsu massive applies pressure to certain parts of your body to balance your 'energy', whilst Swedish massage is more geared to relaxing your muscles.

Oh, one more thing. If you try a massage and your masseuse offers you 'extras', you're probably in the wrong sort of massage parlour.

Supplements or Vitamins

We've talked a lot on this site about how important nutrition is to, not only your physical health, but your mental health too. If your diet doesn't fulfil your body's needs, then you could choose to add supplements and / or vitamins to your intake.

On the face of it, it sounds perfectly simple. Need more of 'something'? Just take a pill that will give you it. As with most things in life, it's not that simple. Your body will only need, or can absorb, only so much of any substance, so adding more by way of costly supplements often just gets transformed into expensive urine.

If you do want to take them, then it's really important to do your research and, if necessary, speak to you Doctor before embarking on it. Some might have a impact on any medication you are already taking. If the problem is more to do with your current diet, they may refer you to a nutritionist or dietician instead.


If you have any experience about how any complementary therapy has helped (or hindered) you and you'd like to share it with our community, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.