Beginner’s Guide to Alternative Health Care

Approximately 40 million Americans are making up the 300 million visits to acupuncturists, chiropractors and massage therapists each year. According to a Consumer Reports online survey, three out of four respondents said they choose these alternative methods for general health over prescription drugs and other types of conventional medical care.

Why is this? Participants in the survey claimed they used alternative methods because of the way they were raised or because some life changing illness caused them to look more closely at other ways to take care of their health.

If you are unfamiliar with alternative health care, it is easy to get overwhelmed when choosing what to do. For those who have an interest in learning about natural and holistic health care, the following explanations may help you decide which direction to take.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic is a health care system that supports the body in healing itself without the use of drugs and surgery. The focus is on structure and function of the spine, and how the relationship affects the protection and reestablishment of total health.

Many people incorrectly assume that chiropractic care is only for those with spinal problems, but the purpose is to optimize health beyond restoring healthy posture. Since the nervous system is the command center for all of our organs, living cells and tissues, and the spinal column encases the nervous system, caring for the spine is paramount to obtaining and maintaining total body health.

What to expect

Chiropractors are trained to locate areas of misalignment, otherwise known as vertebral subluxations. Using a variety of techniques, the chiropractor will apply a corrective force to the affected area. This is generally painless and takes just a few seconds. There is no need for the patient to change clothes or wear a hospital gown, and shoes may be left on or off. Other methods that might be employed at a chiropractic visit include soft tissue massage, lifestyle and nutrition counseling or physical therapy.

What it treats

Neck and back pain, depression, lethargy, headaches, inflammation.


Chiropractic visits range in cost between $30 and $90 a pop and are covered by some insurance companies.


Acupuncture works by putting tiny needles in certain points along the meridians of the body to move the blood and qi (energy). Licensed acupuncturist Katie McBrearty Shields out of Austin, Texas states, “Health is a state of balance that is constantly fluctuating. Acupuncture is a way to help with that balance. Our bodies have meridians (channels) that run through our bodies connecting the organs. Free flowing blood and qi equals a balanced body.”

What it treats

Headaches, migraines, sciatica, infertility, stomach disorders, temporomandibular joint disorders, back pain, and allergies.

What to expect

For those with a needle phobia, have no fear, acupuncture does not hurt in any way. The needles are very thin, unlike those used to draw blood. Needles will either be brand new or completely sterile before use.


An average session runs $60-$120, although the initial consultation will be more expensive. Not all insurance policies cover acupuncture treatment.

Massage Therapy

There are many types of massages one can receive based on need or personal preference. Deep tissue, sports, and the popular Swedish massage are some of the most common in the industry. All of these modalities share the same goal and that is to flush the tissues, free metabolic waste and toxins and break apart soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue.

What to expect

Normally, a massage is received in the nude but this is not a requirement. If you are uncomfortable being naked (albeit, completely out of view under a sheet) let your massage therapist know. Other modalities such as Thai and Shiatsu massage are received fully clothed. For the sensitive person, receiving a massage may be a bit too much stimulation, but for those who are comfortable with touch and human contact it might be just the thing you’ve been missing.

What it treats

Muscle stiffness, muscle imbalance, post injury scar tissue problems, constipation and pain.


Massages run from $45 an hour to upwards of $100 per half-hour session. Wellness programs at you place of employment and some insurance companies may cover all or part of the cost.

Also Read:

Acupuncture a Pain Reliever

Chiropractics 101

7 Tips to Get the Most from Your Massage

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