Alternative Therapies or Medicine Options Worth Thinking About

November 28, 2016 by dccinc

Over the past several years, research has shown that more and more Canadians with disabilities are using alternative medicines or therapies to treat or manage illnesses and to promote healthy living. There are many different therapies and healthcare approaches that fall under the category of alternative medicines or therapies. There are several different practices that have been labeled as alternative medicines or therapies. Some of these practices/approaches include therapeutic massage, relaxation therapy, herbalism, Chinese medicine, chiropractic/functional neurology, homeopathy, conductive education, and physical or occupational therapies to name a few. This blog will explore some of the different approaches that can assist people with disabilities.

Definition of Alternative Medicines or Therapies: The medical dictionary defines alternative medicines and therapies as “ a large and diverse set of systems of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention based on philosophies or techniques other than those used in conventional medicine. Such practices may describe alternative medicines or therapies, existing as a body separate from and as a replacement for conventional medicines. Alternative medicines or therapies are characterized by their focus on the whole person as a unique individual, on the energy of the body and its influence on health and disease, on the healing power of nature and the mobilization of the body’s own resources to heal itself, and on the treatment of the underlying causes, rather than symptoms of disease”.

Types of Alternative Medicines & Therapies


  • What is Acupuncture?

“Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that has been used for centuries. It is based on the theory that energy, called chi, flows through your body and strengthens the body’s immune system by increasing white blood cell count, manages pain by releasing endorphins, and improves sleep by modifying physiological functions of the brain”.

  • What is Acupuncture used for?
    People use acupuncture to relieve pain and treat certain health conditions. Studies have found that the results of acupuncture can be useful for stroke rehabilitation; headaches/migraines; Fibromyalgia; lower back pain (for people who have lower back pain, acupuncture may help reduce pain and disability related to back problems); disorders of the bones; muscles; joints and nerves; dizziness; sleep and stress disorders; neck and shoulder pain.

Massage Therapy:

  • What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is an alternative therapy that can be used for the treatment of acute and chronic conditions. Massage therapists use modern and traditional massage techniques to treat people who may have illnesses, are injured, have a disability, or are in need of physical rehabilitation”.

  • What is Massage Therapy used for?

Massage therapy can help many different conditions and can be beneficial for conditions such as anxiety and depression; back, leg, and neck pain; dislocations; headaches/migraines; chronic pain; physical disabilities; Fibromyalgia; strokes; inflammatory conditions; Parkinson’s; stress and stress-related conditions; anxiety and depression.

 Active Release Therapy:

  • What is Active Release Therapy (ART)?

ART is an alternative therapy that is a soft tissue method that focuses on relieving tissue tension through the removal of adhesions that can develop in tissues because of repetitive use. This technique treats disorders that may lead to weakness, numbness, tingling, burning, etc.”

  • Purpose of ART

The purpose of ART is to treat problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. The active release technique is designed to accomplish three things:

  1. To restore free and unimpeded motion of all soft tissues
  2. To release entrapped nerves
  3. To re-establish optimal texture, resilience, and function of soft tissues
  • Benefits of ART

There are many benefits of ART for people with physical disabilities. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Increased Flexibility—Studies have shown that just one ART treatment can help increase flexibility.
  2. Improves Range of Motion—ART treatments can help improve range of motion and mobility for those with musculoskeletal disorders or injuries and episodes of chronic pain.
  3. Reduces Chronic Lower Back Pain—ART can help break up scar tissue and release-compressed nerves to relieve back pain.


  • What is Botox?

Botox is used commercially to treat multiple painful medical conditions including migraines, spasticity and cervical dystonia. Botox is included in a class of medications called neurotoxins and when they are injected into muscles, it blocks the nerve signals that cause the tightening of muscle, leading to muscle relaxation”.

  • Purpose of Botox

Botox injections is an alternative medicine used to treat conditions that affect how the body functions. Some examples are: (chronic migraines some people experience migraines more than 15 days a month, Botox injections may help reduce headache frequency); chronic muscle twitches; Cerebral Palsy-Associated Limb Spasticity; and Upper and Lower muscle spasms.

Graston Technique

  • What is Graston?

Graston Technique is a unique instrument-assisted soft tissue modality (technique), clinicians address soft tissue build up. Graston helps increase or maintain range of motion”.

  • What can Graston Treat?
    • Achilles Tendinitis (ankle pain)
    • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (wrist pain)
    • Cervical Sprain/Strain (neck pain)
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Tennis Elbow
    • Lumbar Sprain/Strain (back pain)
    • Knee Pain
    • Plantar Fasciitis (foot pain)
    • Rotator Cuff Tendinitis (shoulder pain)
    • Scar Tissue
    • Shin Splints


  • What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is an alternative therapy that “is a natural system of medicine that uses highly diluted doses of substances to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanism to promote health. Homeopathic medicines or remedies are based on the discovery that natural substances are capable of curing the same symptoms the remedy is capable of curing”.

  • What can Homeopathy Treat?

Homeopathy can treat a wide variety of conditions. Many conditions can benefit from homeopathic remedies. These remedies are able to help those who deal with chronic pain, bumps and bruises etc.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

  • Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine is an alternative therapy technique that uses medicinal herbs to prevent and treat diseases and ailments to promote health and healing. Chinese herbs and medicinal substances are important because they promote longevity and treatment of different diseases”.

  • What can Chinese Herbal Medicine Treat?
    • Abdomen pain, nausea and vomiting
    • Back and Spine
    • Body itching
    • Swelling
    • Asthma
    • Neck pain
    • Spasms
    • Digestive problems
    • Stroke
    • Heart Disease
    • Respiratory Disease


  • What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese technique that promotes healing. Reiki is done by laying hands and is based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive”.

  • What Happens During a Reiki Treatment?

“During a Reiki treatment, people feel a wonderful glowing radiance that flows around them. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being”.

Wheelchair/Seated Yoga

  • What is Wheelchair/Seated Yoga?

Wheelchair/seated yoga is “modified yoga that can be done while seated in a chair. These modifications make yoga accessible for people who can’t stand or lack the mobility to move easily from standing to a seated position. While seated on a chair or in a wheelchair, people can do versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends etc.”

  • What are the Benefits of Wheelchair/Seated Yoga?
  1. Improved flexibility
  2. Increased strength
  3. Greater lung capacity
  4. Reduced levels of stress, tension, and anxiety
  5. Improved mental clarity and focus
  6. Improved sense of well-being
  7. Improved feelings of connection, less isolation
  8. More restful sleep
  • Wheelchair/Seated Poses:
    • Cat pose (backstretch)
    • Cow pose (front stretch)
    • Side stretch (obliques and lats muscles)
    • Twists (back)
    • Eagle pose (back and shoulder stretch)
    • Forward bend (low back, hips and hamstrings)
    • Hip stretch
    • Leg stretch


  • What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is an alternative therapy that uses the “principles of water to allow exercise and to alter exercise intensity. Increased temperature and hydrostatic pressure promote the increase in circulation and flexibility and decrease swelling. A hydrotherapy pool is heated to around 35 degrees Celsius. This allows for relaxation and promotes pain relief and encourages circulation”.

  • Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy can assist in treating several types of soft tissue and bone injuries as well as neuromuscular conditions such as Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Cerebral Palsy etc. The benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Pain relief
  • Reduction in muscle spasms
  • Strengthening of weak muscles
  • Increase in circulation
  • Improvement of balance and coordination
  • Re-education of paralyzed muscles
  • Forms of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy includes anything from floating in the water and the benefit from the increased temperature and relaxation properties to exercises. One method of hydrotherapy is known as the Bad Ragaz Ring Method. It is a method of muscle re-education where people float in specific patterns of resistance, endurance, elongation, relaxation, range of motion, and tonal reduction. The buoyancy of the water can be used as a tool to assist movement or to increase the difficulty. For example, when exercising the legs, marching in the water can be used to help in achieving the marching motion. It will provide resistance against pushing the legs down. Attaching a float to the legs can increase resistance.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding/Hippotherapy

  • What is Therapeutic Horseback Riding/Hippotherapy?

Therapeutic Horseback Riding or Hippotherapy is an alternative therapy that improves the physical and mental well-being of people with disabilities. “Riding provides exercise, recreation, and a sense of achievement. Riding also provides independence from mobility aids such as walkers, wheelchairs, and crutches or canes allowing access over the uneven ground into fields and forest where new sights, sounds, and smells stimulate the senses”.

  • Purpose of Therapeutic Horseback Riding/Hippotherapy

The purpose of therapeutic horseback riding/Hippotherapy is to improve balance, coordination, mobilization of stiff joints and muscles, prevention of contractures, improvement of circulation, relaxation of spasticity, development of self-esteem and independence, and recreation.

  • Who can benefit from Therapeutic Horseback Riding/Hippotherapy?

Some of the disabilities that can benefit from therapeutic riding lessons are:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Autism
  • Arthritis
  • Amputations
  • Spina Bifida
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain Injury
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Dwarfism
  • Blindness
  • Hearing and Speech Impediments
  • Various Social or Emotional Disabilities
  • Learning disabilities

Conductive Education

  • What is Conductive Education?

Conductive Education is a program that combines physical rehabilitation and education to help children and adults with neurological motor disorders or who have had a stroke or brain injury. Conductive Education works on the brain to change the body. Participants are taught skills and techniques to help them overcome the challenges of their disability—they learn how to apply these strategies to everyday life, becoming more independent”.

  • Who Benefits from Conductive Education?

Conductive Education was designed for people with neurological motor disorders, Conductive Education offers an alternative group-setting approach to rehabilitation for people living with

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Acquired Brain Injury

 Interactive Metronome (IM)

  • What is IM?

Interactive Metronome (IM) is an assessment and treatment tool used by therapists and professionals who work with people with neurological conditions that affect cognitive and motor functioning. IM provides objective methods for measuring deficits and for tracking improvements. IM is an evidence-based, engaging therapeutic modality that improves cognitive and motor skills. The design of the program ensures that the people using it recognize their progress as it is happening, increasing their motivation toward therapy and their ultimate recovery. IM is used to improve:”

  • Attention
  • Coordination
  • Language processing
  • Reading and math fluency
  • Control of impulsivity/aggression
  • How IM Works

The brain with the IM along with functional therapy interventions, “IM is not only addressing users abilities that has an impact on their achievements and independence, but its also retraining the timing between the areas of the brain that are underlying many of the problems people are working on in therapy. This creates a more efficient treatment and better overall treatment outcomes. IM is a game-like auditory-visual platform that engages people and provides up-to-date feedback on milliseconds to promote synchronized timing in the brain. Users can customize and increase the difficulty and time of the motor movements by setting them to be higher and faster, which will test the person’s cognitive processing, attention, and decision-making. IM is the only neuro-motor therapy tool that can be used on any person across the therapy spectrum, even those who require hands-on assistance due to physical and/or cognitive impairments”.

Music Therapy

  • What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is “the skillful use of music and musical elements used by music therapists to promote, maintain and restore mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities”.

  • Who benefits from Music Therapy?

“Music therapy is an alternative therapy used with individuals of various ages, abilities and musical backgrounds in institutional, community and private practice settings”. This includes:

  • Acquired Brain Injuries
  • Aids
  • Autism & other Persuasive Development Disabilities
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Emotional Traumas
  • Mental Health
  • Neonatal Care
  • Obstetrics
  • Neonatal Care
  • Pain Control
  • Palliative Care
  • Personal Growth
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Speech & Language Impairments
  • Substance Abuse
  • Teens at Risk
  • Victims of Abuse
  • Visual Impairments

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