As someone who struggles with several autoimmune conditions, my health journey has looked a bit different from many others’. As so much remains unknown about autoimmune syndromes, many people struggling with them begin doing their own research to find treatments that work. Often, people like me end up working with holistic medicines that that go beyond typical Western medicine. Over the course of my research I’ve found several alternative treatments that have brought relief, balance, and healing to my life.
Starting the process of finding treatment outside of the usual routes can sometimes be overwhelming or scary, but finding the practices that work for me and designing a life that allows me more freedom from my symptoms has been more than worth it. If you’ve been curious about pursuing holistic medicine for your own healing journey, consider some of the alternatives below. Having access to new avenues for pain management might change your life as much as it’s changed mine.
Reiki is a form of energy healing that originated in Japan. The word “reiki” is a combination of two Japanese words that mean “God’s wisdom” and “life force energy;” together they signify a kind of energy that is guided by a higher spirit. Reiki believes that many illnesses are the result of disrupted energy in the body. In reiki, healers work to undo disturbances in the energy fields in a person’s body, promoting balance, health and good energy flow.
Reiki works with the qi (or chi), the energy that flows along pathways (or meridians) through a person’s body like blood flows through our veins. A reiki healer either hovers their hands above a client’s body or lightly touches them to help engage their natural healing capabilities, clear blocked energy and help promote a healthy flow. The reiki healing process is one that aims to work in every area of the client from the physical to the spiritual and emotional.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting very thin needles at strategic points on the body to help with the flow of the qi. The acupuncture needles help to unblock places where qi is stagnant and increase circulation through the body. It’s often used to relieve pain that stems from headaches, blood pressure problems, and other issues. Some studies say that acupuncture might be additionally helpful because it increases blood flow while triggering the body’s natural painkillers.
I’ve been using acupuncture for over twenty years; I started using it to treat dance injuries and muscle pain, but over time it’s become a regular tune-up for my overall wellness. For people who are especially in tune with their bodies and can sense when there is a blockage or imbalance, I’ve found the relief that acupuncture provides to be especially helpful. It’s not terribly painful, although if you have a fear of needles acupuncture might not be for you. Acupuncture has had miraculous results for me while dealing with autoimmune conditions, and I know others with autoimmune disorders who have found the practice useful as well.
Shiatsu is a form of massage that originated in Japan; its name comes from the Japanese words for “finger pressure.” It focuses on applying deep pressure to points along meridians in the body. This pressure does the work that needles do in acupuncture, reducing blockages and allowing energy to flow freely. In addition to greater balance, shiatsu can help with neck and back pain, arthritis, headaches, and sinus problems. It’s also useful for stress management, helping to undo the damage that stress often brings to the nervous system.
Reflexology is another form of massage that focuses on the ancient Chinese belief in connections between our different body parts. This practice believes that applying pressure to your feet, hands and ears can bring healing and relief to different organs and systems all over the body. Healers work to correct internal balances using the pressure points in your feet and hands like a map to your body. A masseuse uses pressure on these connections to send healing energy to the parts of the body that need it the most. The most common benefits of reflexology are stress relief, anxiety reduction and pain management.
Even if you’re not sure about reflexology as a method of healing, getting a foot massage once in a while is a great form of self care.
Chiropractors work with your bones and muscles, making sure your body’s structure is properly aligned. I’ve seen a chiropractor for most of my dancing career because dance can be very hard on the body. When one part of your body, like a rib, a shoulder or an ankle, is pulled out of alignment, it can cause the rest of your body to overcompensate in a harmful way. As your body works to compensate for the injury it causes more aches and pains in other places, causing a feedback loop of pain.
Much of the work I do for my health as I live with autoimmune conditions is for pain management, which is why taking care of pain as soon as it happens is so important. If left unchecked, these small misalignments can cause flare-ups, so getting adjusted by a chiropractor is a regular part of my self care.
Taking the first step toward alternative healing can feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but so many of these practices can have great results. If you’ve been looking for ways to manage pain or promote healing, I’d encourage you to give holistic medicine a try. You might be surprised at what works for you. I always believe fi you seek, you shall find; if you have a problem that isn’t being solved by Western medicine I always encourage people to dig a little deeper. After all, it’s your life, and you deserve to live it at its healthiest and most fulfilling.