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Alternatie medicine rises in popularity

Decisions about health care are some of the most important choices people will make in their lives.

The results can be a matter of life and death.

In recent years, alternative medicine has become more popular. A 1998 study showed that the use of alternative medicine rose from 33.8 percent in 1990 to 42.1 percent in 1997.

A 2002 survey of U.S. adults 18 years and older conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine indicated that 74.6 percent had used some form of complementary and alternative medicine; and 62.1 percent had done so within the past 12 months.

Alternative medicine incorporates spiritual, metaphysical, religious and newly developed approaches to healing. The term includes any healing that doesn't fall within the realm of conventional medicine, such as chiropractic, herbalism, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, aromatherapy, hypnosis and acupuncture. It can be used in place of or in conjunction with conventional medicine.

The medical community doesn't always accept alternative medicine. But advocates of alternative medicine hold steady that treatment methods are effective in healing a wide range of major and minor medical conditions including back, neck, head or joint aches, colds, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems and gastrointestinal disorders.

Natural medicine is creating a footprint on the North Olympic Peninsula. A sampling of services available include, but aren't limited to, massage, acupuncture, yoga and biofeedback.



The benefits of massage

Massage is the practice of soft tissue manipulation. The word comes from the French "massage," meaning friction of kneading, and from the Arabic "massa," meaning to touch, feel or handle.

Massage involves physically rubbing a client's body with pressure, tension, motion or vibration manually and with mechanical aids.

In a professional setting, a massage involves the client being treated while lying on a table, sitting in a massage chair or lying on a mat on the floor. The subject may be fully or partially clothed and covered with a towel or sheet.

James Jeffko, owner of Sequim Massage Therapy & Wellness, describes massage as "body maintenance."

"Our bodies tend to physically hold what our minds can no longer carry," Jeffko said. "I'm a firm believer that everybody needs massage and that most of us could use it one to two times a month."



The art of acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine needles into specific points on the body for therapeutic purposes and to relieve pain.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture points lie along meridians in the body where the "qi," defined as vital energy, flows. Certain points have been identified to treat certain illnesses.

Although acupuncture has been a popular subject of scientific research since the late 20th century, it remains controversial among researchers and clinicians.

"Acupuncture is one of those things in our culture that people are scared of ... because people are scared of needles," said licensed acupuncturist Jennifer Frey. "Once they get it, they always say 'I should have gotten this before!'"

Needles are in the body anywhere from 14-40 minutes depending on the ailment.

Lani Madison, one of Frey's clients, told the Gazette during an interview last September that the needles don't hurt when they are being inserted and that "it's actually relaxing."



Relaxing and

healing with yoga

Yoga refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India. A practitioner of yoga is called a "yogi" or "yogini."

Hot yoga, done in a 95-degree sauna-like atmosphere, is a new concept here although practice of the extra-warm workout dates back to more than 5,000 years and is said to reduce stress, calm the mind, promote weight loss, strengthen and tone muscles, increase vitality and energy, regulate cholesterol levels, strengthen the immune system, increase metabolism, improve spine strength and flexibility, lower blood pressure, improve balance, strength and flexibility and increase circulation.

Corky Laxon, certified yoga instructor and owner of Bay Yoga, compares hot yoga to visiting Arizona. "People get a little skeptical about the heat but after about three visits they love it," she said.

Practicing yoga made Laxon a believer after being involved in a horseback-riding accident that resulted in major back surgery and a plate and four screws being put into her back in 2001.

"It's a great stress reducer, very beneficial for balance, and is energizing," Laxon described. "It stretches and compresses every joint, muscle, ligament, organ and nerve in your body."



The basics of

biofeedback

Biofeedback therapy is a mental, physical, spiritual and scientific type of treatment. Patients are hooked up to electronic machines and monitored closely - their heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing.

The all natural, non-invasive treatment has no side effects, according to certified biofeedback therapist JES Schumacher, owner of Evergreen Biofeedback, Inc., in Sequim and Port Townsend. "It's about tuning into your body because once you know what's going on, you can learn to control it," she said. "Biofeedback is a great way to reduce your medication intake, reduce symptoms of health conditions and take control of your life."

Biofeedback emerged in the 1950s and is a convergence of psychophysiology, stress management strategies, behavior therapy and biomedical engineering.

With proper training, Schumacher said, it's possible for patients to reduce blood pressure, change muscle tension, significantly improve breathing and reduce symptoms of many other health issues including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Schumacher teaches patients acupressure techniques that can be used at home without sensors. "It's a way to find relief in the moment, on your own," she said.







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