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What are the Different Acupuncture Alternatives?

By Lisa Lucke
Updated May 17, 2024
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Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice designed to open the flow of energy, also known as chi or qi, in the body’s pathways, or meridians, with the goal of alleviating a host of physical, emotional and mental symptoms. During an acupuncture treatment, an acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles at specific pressure points located across the human body, including the head, face and scalp. For many people, the idea of acupuncture needles piercing the skin is even less desirable than the ailment for which acupuncture provides relief. As a result, people often opt for any number of acupuncture alternatives depending upon their particular symptoms. Just a few acupuncture alternatives include: acupressure, reflexology, herbal supplements and therapeutic massage.

Of all the alternatives, acupressure is probably the most closely aligned with the principles of acupuncture. Acupressure works essentially the same way as its counterpart, but without acupuncture needles. Where acupuncture requires the insertion of ultra-thin needles to help channel energy away from blocked areas and consequently through the body’s meridians, acupressure utilizes digital manipulation with massage to achieve similar results. Acupressure is one of many acupuncture alternatives often used to control pain in very specific parts of the body caused by chronic illness as well as a host of emotional and mental disorders including stress, insomnia, and anxiety.

Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is one of the fastest growing acupuncture alternatives. Like acupressure, reflexology treats a wide variety of ailments of both body and mind. Proponents believe the practice is especially ideal for reducing and managing stress. This increasingly popular acupuncture alternative is also believed to treat maladies resulting from the cumulative effect that stress has on humans, including migraine headaches, anxiety, and overeating. From the Western perspective, both of these types of alternative medicine are commonly used as an adjunct to traditional medical care.

Herbal and vitamin supplements, often used in a variety of cultures for compensating for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, are also sometimes used to treat the same ailments that acupuncture may be used to treat. Typically, the use of these supplements are tailored to individual needs after a thorough analysis of a person's diet and exercise. As one of the lesser expensive and more accessible of the many acupuncture alternatives, herbal and vitamin supplements are widely available in most markets.

Therapeutic massage, including hot stone massage therapy which incorporates heated stones placed strategically on the body, has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of disorders. Especially designed to aid in issues associated with stress and tension, massage is one of most popular and affordable acupuncture alternatives. For head to toe relaxation of the mind and body, Swedish massage, one of the more common variations, aids in the detoxification of muscles resulting from illness or fatigue.

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