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Acupuncture practice: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) covers a large number of different therapies, which work holistically by balancing a patient's physical, emotional and spiritual state. The most established disciplines are acupuncture, herbalism, homeopathy, chiropractic and osteopathy, although there are many others. You might decide to offer several therapies in addition to acupuncture - you may have the training and expertise to offer these yourself or you may engage the services of other practitioners. A brief description of some CAM therapies is included below:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China some 3,000 years ago and involves inserting very fine stainless steel needles into particular points on the body to stimulate nerve impulses. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the concept of vital energy (or qi) which flows around the body along invisible channels (or meridians). Well being is achieved by regulating the flow of energy and correcting any imbalances by inserting the needles at specific points on the body. Akabani sticks may be used on fingers and toes to test whether or not the flow of qi is symmetric. Dried mugwort or moxa may be used to heat the needle, to reduce or increase the flow of energy. Western acupuncture uses the same needling techniques but affects nerve impulses and the central nervous system. Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions, including back and neck pain, osteo-arthritis, allergies, pain relief and smoking cessation. Cosmetic or facial acupuncture can be used to improve skin conditions and to combat the signs of ageing.

Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment, primarily for musculo-skeletal problems. Treatment consists of manipulation to correct the underlying causes of the pain - this may include massage, stretching and other exercises.

Chiropractic

Chiropractic treats musculo-skeletal disorders by manipulating and massaging the muscles, joints and ligaments of the body to put right any dysfunction of the spine and pelvis.

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine uses remedies produced from plants to both treat complaints and to maintain good health.

Homeopathy

Homeopathic treatment uses very small doses of substances that, if taken in high doses by a healthy person, would produce the symptoms that the remedies are designed to treat. It is based on treating "like with like".

Other complementary therapies include:

  • aromatherapy
  • hypnotherapy
  • Alexander technique
  • reflexology
  • Shiatsu massage
  • yoga
  • healing
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage and the exercise technique called Qigong
  • naturopathy
  • meditation
  • nutritional medicine

and many others.

You can find out more about CAM therapies on the NHS Choices website.