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The world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can be vast and dizzying. As we open our minds to new methods of well-being, we encounter a seemingly endless list of options, modalities and unfamiliar words. To get acquainted with
just a few . . .





American practices incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea and other countries. The most studied technique involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.


A system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. As a holistic practice, ayurveda integrates treatment to body, mind and spirit to achieve balance and contentment. It places high value on ridding the body of impurities.

Energy Healing/Reiki

The channeling of life-force energy (known as ki in the Japanese tradition) through the hands of a practitioner into the patient’s body.


A movement-based therapy devised by physicist and engineer Moshe Feldenkrais. It seeks to improve physical functioning through education of body motion and physical coordination.


A medical system based on the “like cures like” theory: any substance that can produce symptoms of illness in a healthy person can cure those symptoms in a sick person. For example, someone suffering from insomnia may be given a homeopathic dose of diluted coffee.


A medicine proposing that there is a healing power in the body that establishes, maintains and restores health. Practitioners work to support this power through a range of traditional and alternative treatments.


A movement therapy developed through the rehabilitation techniques of Joseph Pilates that uses a method of physical exercise to strengthen and build control of muscles, especially those used for posture.

Qi gong

An ancient Chinese discipline combining the use of gentle physical movements, mental focus and deep breathing. Performed in repetitions directed toward specific body parts, the exercises are performed for 30 minutes at a time.

Tai Chi

A mind-body practice that originated in China as a martial art. Slow, graceful movements are joined with deep breathing and meditation (tai chi is sometimes called “moving meditation”). Movements quicken at higher levels. The practice facilitates the flow of chi, or vital energy, throughout the body.


An ancient Indian practice that uses breathing exercises, physical postures and meditation to calm the nervous system and balance body, mind and spirit. >>>


Sources: National Health Statistics Reports, December 10, 2008: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007,” by Patricia M. Barnes, M.A., and Barbara Bloom, M.P.A., Division of Health Interview Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics and Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H., National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health.



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