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Some different therapies

Safe practice of healthcare is a common goal. To help with patient safety there is an increasing programme of regulation of complementary therapies in England and Wales.

The following therapies are regulated through acts of parliament - Osteopathy and Chiropractic, are in the process of becoming regulated by statute - acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Western herbal medicine or they are entering into voluntary self regulation through the new Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council.

Acupuncture is the treatment of ill health by inserting needles into the skin at particular points. This stimulates the body's ability to heal. Acupuncture is part of a system of traditional Chinese medicine that developed in China around 4,000 years ago, which also includes herbal medicine.

Alexander Technique enables you to discover whether you are thinking and acting in ways that are causing you harm and also to learn to do the things you want to do better.

Aromatherapy uses the natural healing properties of oils, which are extracted from plants, to improve health and prevent illness.

Bowen technique is a non-invasive, soft tissue remedial therapy - a gentle form of bodywork which involves the therapist using fingers or thumbs in various parts of the body to move over muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia.

Chiropractic involves manipulation and mobilisation of the joints and surrounding soft tissue such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. The aim is to help the spine and joints to move more easily, to reduce stiffness and tension in the muscles, and to relieve pain. Chiropractors tend to focus on the joints of the spine and the nervous system.

Craniosacral therapy is a gentle treatment which involves a practitioner applying very light touch to the body. The cranial system consists of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It extends from the bones of the skull, face and mouth that make up the cranium, down the spine to the sacrum and tailbone (coccyx) area.

In herbal medicine, the healing properties of plants are used to treat illness and maintain good health. It is one of the most ancient forms of treatment known and there are herbal medicine traditions in various parts of the world. In Britain today, the two main systems of herbal medicine practised are Chinese herbal medicine and Western herbal medicine. Other forms of herbal medicine practised include Ayurvedic (Indian) and Tibetan.

Homeopathy. The basic principle of homeopathy is ‘like cures like’. This means that a substance that would produce certain symptoms in a healthy person can be used to treat a sick person with those same symptoms. For example, raw onion makes peoples eyes water. It can also cause a stingy or runny nose. A homeopathic remedy made from onion, allium cepa, can be used to treat patients who have a complaint like a cold or hay fever, with those symptoms.

Massage therapy is a system of treatment of the soft tissue of the body. It involves rubbing, kneading or applying pressure to various parts of the body, with the aim of alleviating aches, pains and musculoskeletal problems, which are problems relating to the bone and muscle structure of the body, such as headaches and back pain.

Naturopathy is the practice of using natural treatments to help the body to heal itself. Naturopaths use a range of methods including; nutrition and dietary advice; breathing exercises and stretches; hydrotherapy (hot and cold baths, mineral spas and douches), herbal compresses and dry skin brushing are used to stimulate circulation and the lymphatic system and physical therapies such as osteopathy (if the practitioner is appropriately trained) and massage therapy.

Nutritional therapy uses food and diet to help the body’s own healing ability to maintain good health and to prevent or alleviate illness. Practitioners look for nutritional deficiencies, allergies or intolerances to food, or for factors that can cause poor digestion or absorption in the stomach or intestine. Treatment involves dietary change and may include the use of nutritional supplements, such as vitamins and minerals.

Osteopathy is a healthcare practice that works with the body’s musculo-skeletal system, which is comprised of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. Osteopaths diagnose and treat abnormalities in the way the body is working, as well as damage caused by illness.

Reflexology is based on the principle that certain points on the feet and hands, called reflex points, correspond to various parts of the body and that by applying pressure to these points in a systematic way, a practitioner can help to release tensions and encourage the body’s natural healing processes.

Yoga is an ancient tradition of mental and physical exercises, which started in India over 5,000 years ago and is now widely practised in the UK. There are many different styles of yoga. Some are physically more demanding, some are gentler, some focus more on physical postures, while others focus more on breathing and meditation.