Below are some of the range of complementary therapies available. All the therapies listed are offered by Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. Among numerous other therapies that are not on this list, those that members have sometimes mentioned as being helpful include Aromatherapy, Alexander Technique, Reiki, Shiatzu and Iridology.
The following explanations are summaries taken from information on the website of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. Click on the relevant topic below:
If you are thinking of trying an alternative therapy, then click here to see some important guidelines. Click below to choose topic:
Traditional Chinese acupuncture is a part of traditional Chinese medicine, a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years. It involves insertion of fine needles. Some patients feel a little sharpness during needle insertion, while others feel nothing at all. It is used as a means of pain relief and also to treat stress, anxiety and depression. Western medical acupuncture is an adaptation of traditional Chinese acupuncture using current knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology and the principles of evidence based medicine. Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin, muscle and other tissues, and can produce a variety of effects. It increases the release of the body’s natural painkillers, including endorphin and serotonin, in the pathways of both the spinal cord and the brain. This modifies the way pain signals are received by the brain. It is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal pain.
Hypnosis is a psychological technique used in medicine as a tool to bring about positive changes to both the mind and the body. The hypnotic state is produced either by oneself (self-hypnosis) or by responding to a therapist. It is often accompanied by deep physical relaxation, increased inner-focus and a corresponding reduction in the awareness of your surroundings. It can help with pain management and also to treat stress, anxiety and depression.
Hypnotherapy was presented in the recent series of Channel 4’s programme ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ as a treatment for neck dystonia. While hypnotherapy may help mitigate symptoms for some people, it is not a treatment used in conventional medicine for dystonia. In the vast majority of cases, the conventional treatment for neck dystonia is botulinum toxin injections.
Reflexology involves applying pressure to the feet and hands. The application of pressure to parts of the feet or the hands effect corresponding parts of the body through reflex zones and meridian points. Tensions can be felt though this is usually a pleasant sensation for the client. It can be used for general aches and pains, stress-related problems and anxiety and depression.
Autogenic Training is a structured meditative-style practice. It is a sequence of simple mental exercises which bring about profound mental and physical relaxation. The result is a more balanced activity of mind and body and the ability to switch into a calm state easily and at will. It is particularly recommended for conditions where stress significantly contributes to ill-health. Examples of conditions where it may be of benefit are anxiety and managing muscular pain.
Homeopathy is based on the idea of treating ‘like with like’. Medicines which can produce an illness matching the one from which the patient is suffering are prescribed, aiming to stimulate the body’s own healing. Key features of homeopathy include:
• Holism: sometimes described as ‘treating the person, not the disease’.
• Constitution: the type of person, including build, personality, general physical features.
• Idiosyncrasy: what is unusual about the patient and their health problem
• Minimum dose: Homeopathic medicines range from concentrated tinctures to extremely dilute medicines, some so dilute that the original substance has been completely diluted out. It is thought that the water and alcohol mixture in which the dilutions are made retain a ‘memory’ of the substance.
Homeopathy is not an exclusive alternative, and is not the right treatment for every complaint. It is best integrated with other treatments so that everybody involved in the patient’s care communicates and works together.
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle ‘hands-on’ therapy that aims to release tensions, restrictions and misalignments in the body. It can be used alongside conventional treatments. It can be offered for muscular pains as well as stress and anxiety.
If you thinking of trying an alternative therapy then you should be aware of the following guidelines:
- Complementary medicine is defined as ‘practices and ideas which are outside the domain of conventional medicine’. Complementary therapies that are effective for some people may not work at all for others
- Complementary therapies should never be seen as an alternative to treatment by conventional medicine
- Any complementary treatment should be discussed and agreed with your GP or neurologist before starting to ensure there is no risk of aggravating your condition
- Complementary therapies are sometimes available on the NHS but often are not. If provided privately, they are sometimes expensive and are not guaranteed to work
- Private practitioners are usually not medically qualified and are often unregulated. You therefore need to be extremely careful who you choose. The Dystonia Society cannot provide contacts or advice on choosing practitioners