Glossary of Holistic Terms
Acupressure and Shiatsu
These are similar varieties of finger pressure massage. They are both based on applying pressure to a pattern of specific points that correspond with the acupuncture points. Pressure is applied with the thumb, finger and palm rather than needles.
The goal is the efficient and balanced flow of chi through the meridians. It is believed that where there is tension being held in the musculature, the flow of chi is impaired through those areas, which can lead to chronic problems not only in the musculature but in the associated organs. Stretching and movement are also sometimes used.
Acupressure is the more generic term used for this approach and Shiatsu is the Japanese version. (2)
Acupuncture originated in China over five-thousand years ago. It 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. According to acupuncture theory, qi circulates in the body along twelve major energy pathways, called meridians, each linked to specific internal organs and organ systems.
When special needles are inserted into these acupoints (just under the skin), they help correct and rebalance the flow of energy and consequently relieve pain and/or restore health.
Chinese immigrants brought acupuncture to America in the mid-1800's, but it was largely ignored until 1972, when James Reston, a respected New York Times columnist, underwent an emergency appendectomy while in China. Reston reported on the amazing post surgical pain relief he enjoyed via a few well-placed acupuncture needles. (1)
Several leading medical centers offer acupuncture, particularly for the treatment of chronic pain. The Mayo Clinic has had an acupuncture service since 1975, and the World Health Organization currently lists 47 illnesses or other medical conditions that may be effectively treated with acupuncture, including migraine headaches, asthma, tendonitis, back pain, and arthritis. In November 1997 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that needle acupuncture treatment is effective for nausea caused by surgery, Chemotherapy, pregnancy, and for postoperative dental pain. The NIH panel also concluded that needle acupuncture may be effective as an adjunct therapy, an acceptable alternative, or a part of a comprehensive treatment program for other conditions including asthma, fibromyalgia, headache and low back pain.(3)
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander technique focuses on the connection between physical problems and faulty posture. The technique is intended to correct habitual patterns of posture, restore the correct relationship of head, neck, and back, and promote proper balance and movement in the body. (3)
Aromatherapy utilizes the medicinal properties of essential oils extracted from plants and herbs through a process of steam distillation or cold pressing. According to some practitioners, the chemical makeup of essential oils gives them a host of desirable pharmacological properties that make them useful; for example, as antibacterial, antiviral, and antispasmodic agents, as well as diuretics and vasoconstrictors. Treatments may be administered through inhalation, external application (for example, bath, massage, compress, or topically), or through ingestion. (3)
Practiced in India for the past 5,000 years, Ayurvedic medicine (meaning "science of life") is a comprehensive system of medicine that combines natural therapies with a highly personalized approach to the treatment of disease. Ayurvedic medicine places equal emphasis on body, mind, and spirit, and strives to restore the innate harmony of the individual. (1)
Practitioners believe that each of these aspects must be nurtured if the individual is to create health. An Ayurvedic physician is trained to combine diet, yoga, meditation, and a wide range of natural substances in order to help the individual achieve balance. (3)
Biofeedback provides visual or auditory evidence of the status of certain body functions as a means of exerting voluntary control over those functions to alleviate an abnormal condition. Biofeedback therapy often uses electrical devices to transform bodily signals indicative of such functions as heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and gross muscle tone. This modality is often used in the practice of psychology. (3)
Chelation therapy is defined as "medical therapy to restore cellular homeostasis through the use of intravenous metal binding and bioinorganic agents such as ethylene tetra-acetic acid." Except for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, Chelation therapy is considered an experimental form of treatment. Oral Chelation is also practiced using various food supplements and herbs. (3)
Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts which is concerned with human health and disease processes. Doctors of Chiropractic are physicians who consider people as integrated beings and give special attention to the physiological and biochemical aspects including structural, spinal, musculoskeletal, neurological, vascular, nutritional, emotional and environmental relationships and are trained in diagnosis so they may treat patients effectively and make timely referrals to other health care providers when appropriate.
Through adjustments of the spine and joints, chiropractors can influence the body's nervous system and natural defense mechanisms in order to alleviate pain and improve general health. Because of its effectiveness in treating back problems, headaches, and other injuries and traumas, chiropractic has become the second largest primary health care field in the world. (1)
Diet and Nutrition
Recent research has demonstrated that diet alone may not be sufficient to supply the nutrients necessary for overall good health. While most experts agree that nutritional supplements are vital for a variety of illnesses, injuries, and age-related problems, vitamin and mineral supplements, amino acids, and enzymes can also help to maintain optimal physical and psychological health, and promote longevity and chronic disease prevention.
The typical American diet of the past few decades has increasingly included more processed and contaminated foods than ever before. At the same time, Americans now suffer from more degenerative diseases, causing many physicians to suggest a strong link between what one eats and how one feels. (1)
The Feldenkrais Method
The Feldenkrais method endeavors to correct habitual negative patterns of movement on the premise that if these patterns are interrupted, the body will function with greater ease. Corrective techniques include breathing, movement to improve mobility, and communicative touch by the practitioner. (3)
Guided imagery is probably best known for its direct effects on physiology. Through imagery, an individual attempts to stimulate changes in body functions usually considered inaccessible to conscious influence.
Preliminary studies have demonstrated that imagery can be an effective part of treatment in a wide variety of illnesses. Stress-related conditions, such as headaches, back pain, spastic colon, and fatigue, often respond well to imagery techniques. In addition, the emotional aspects of critical illnesses can be eased through imagery, which may encourage physical healing. (3)
Healing Touch (HT)
Healing Touch (HT) is an energy based therapeutic approach to healing. HT uses touch to influence the energy system thus affecting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and healing. The goal in HT is to restore harmony and balance in the energy system to help the person to self heal. Healing Touch has roots in Therapeutic Touch (TT) and other healing modalities which are derived from Laying on of Hands.
The word homeopathy derives from the Greek word "homoios," meaning "similar," and "pathos," meaning "suffering." Homeopathic remedies are generally dilutions of natural substances from plants, minerals, and animals. Based on the principle of "like cures like," these remedies specifically match different symptom patterns or "profiles" of illness, and act to stimulate the body's natural healing response. It is particularly effective in treating chronic illnesses that fail to respond to conventional treatment, and is also a superb method of self-care for minor conditions such as the common cold and flu. (1)
Hypnotherapy includes hypnotism, posthypnotic suggestion, or any similar process that induces a trance in which the susceptibility of the subject's mind to suggestion or direction is increased. Hypnotherapy, like guided imagery can be used to relieve stress and its physical symptoms or cope with the emotional distress that accompanies disease. Hypnotherapy is usually considered to be within the field of psychology. (3)
Iridology is a diagnostic tool based on the assumption that the iris can indicate the general status of internal organs. Iridology may be used by herbalists and naturopaths. (4)
Kinesiology (Applied Kinesiology)-(AK)
Focuses on the relationship of muscle strength and energy flow. The theory is that if muscles are strong, then circulation and other vital functions are also strong.
Massage Therapy/ Bodywork/ Trager/ Craniosacral
Physicians and healers of all forms and from all cultures have used hands-on manipulation throughout history as an integral part of health care practice. While there are a wide variety of forms of massage therapy and bodywork, all with their own theoretical or philosophical perspectives, there are certain basic principles they all tend to hold in common: circulation of blood, release of toxins, release of tension, enhancement of all bodily systems, mind/body integration and energy. (2)
Muscle tension, whether from normal activity or from awkward movement or stress, contributes to muscle fatigue and pain by compressing nerve fibers in the muscle. Prolonged contraction interferes with the elimination of chemical wastes in the muscles and surrounding tissues and can cause frequent nerve and muscle pain. If not properly addressed, these body tensions have a tendency to build into chronic patterns of stress.(1)
Meditation is a safe and simple way to balance a person's physical, emotional and mental states. It is easily learned and has been used as an aid in treating stress and pain management. It has also been employed as part of an overall treatment for other conditions, including hypertension and heart disease.
Although there are numerous approaches to meditation, most techniques can be grouped into two basic approaches: Concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. In mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits quietly and witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries or images.
Forms of meditation include breathing, imagery, T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Yoga. (1)
Music therapy uses musical interventions specifically selected by a music therapist to restore, maintain, or improve an individual's social or emotional functioning and mental or physical health. (3)
Naturopathic medicine treats health conditions by utilizing the body's inherent ability to heal. Naturopathic physicians aid the healing process by incorporating a variety of alternative methods based on the patient's individual needs. Diet, lifestyle, work, and personal history are all considered when determining a treatment regimen.
Naturopathic medicine is not a single modality of healing, but an array of healing practices, including diet and clinical nutrition; homeopathy; acupuncture; herbal medicine; hydrotherapy; therapeutic exercise; spinal and soft-tissue manipulation; physical therapies involving electric current, ultrasound, and light therapy; therapeutic counseling; and pharmacology. A few naturopaths are licensed to perform minor surgery and natural childbirth.
Drawing from the healing wisdom of many cultures including Indian, Chinese, Native American and Greek, 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 (1)
Osteopathy is the manipulation of joints and spinal vertebrae directed towards resolving mechanical problems of the body. Thus, abnormal tension in the muscles and ligaments can be relieved and self-healing facilitated. (4)
Qigong (also referred to as chi-kung) is an ancient Chinese exercise that stimulates and balances the flow of qi, or vital life energy, along the acupuncture meridians (energy pathways).
Qigong combines movement, meditation, and breath regulation to enhance the flow of vital energy in the body, improve blood circulation, and enhance immune function. Because Qigong can be used by the healthy as well as the severely ill, it is one of the most broadly applicable systems of self-care in the world. In China, it is estimated that 200 million people practice Qigong every day. (1)
Reflexology is a treatment which applies varying degrees of pressure to different parts of the body, commonly the hands and feet, in order to promote health and well-being. It is suggested that there are reflexes or zones running along the body and terminating in the hands or feet. All systems and organs are said to be reflected on to the hands or feet and by applying gentle pressure to specific areas of the hands or feet a change can be effected elsewhere in the body. (4)
The Japanese term “Reiki” means universal life force and is a Japanese form of Healing Touch.
Tai Chi Chuan
This Chinese martial art is the best known of the internal systems. It emphasizes body coordination and inner energy (Chi), rather than muscle power. Chi is developed through mental concentration, deep breathing, relaxing and sinking of the body. Shifting the body weight and pressing, all act to generate a tremendous inner energy flow.
Therapeutic Touch (TT)
Therapeutic touch (TT) is described as an energy field interaction between two or more people with the intention to rebalance or repattern the energy field in order to facilitate relaxation and self-healing. (4)
The meaning of the word Yoga is "union": the integration of physical, mental and spiritual energies that enhance health and well-being. Yoga is among the oldest known systems of health practiced in the world today, and research into Yoga practices has had a strong impact on the fields of stress reduction, mind/body medicine and energy medicine. The physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation practices of Yoga have been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, regulate heart rate and even retard the aging process. (1)
(1) The Burton Goldberg Group. (1993). Alternative Medicine: the definitive guide. Washington: Future Medicine Publishing, Inc.
(2) Collinge, W., MPH, PhD. (1996). The American Holistic Health Association complete guide to alternative medicine. New York: Warner Books.
(3) Mudd, S. (November/December 1996). The mainstreaming of alternative medicine. Healthcare Forum Journal, 24-25.
(4) Slater, V. and Rankin-Box, D. (Eds.). (1996). The nurses' handbook of complementary therapies. New York: Churchill Livingston.
THIS GLOSSARY IS PROVIDED FOR YOUR INFORMATION ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSITITUTE ENDORSEMENT OF THESE THERAPIES BY DEACONESS HOSPITAL OR DEACONESS HOLISTIC RESOURCES. THE THERAPIES DESCRIBED SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITURE FOR PROFESSINAL MEDICAL ADVICE.