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Neuromuscular massage

This is a form of massage in which specific motor-points on the muscles (trigger-points) are massaged deeply with the fingertips, ultimately aiming to relieve muscular tension. Although orthodox medical practitioners are generally sceptical about the claims made by therapists using the special forms of massage described above, most agree that the classical Swedish form of…

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Medicinal baths

Virtually everybody would acknowledge the general feeling of well-being that a warm bath gives after a tiring day or strenuous exercise. The advocates of medicinal baths would claim that their therapeutic value is even more wide-ranging. Medicinal baths nowadays are usually water-based, although substances such as herbs and minerals are often added. The use of…

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Paranormal therapy

The existence of certain phenomena that cannot be explained in terms of known scientific principles is quite widely acknowledged. Paranormal healing recognizes that there is another dimension to life which, although not commonly experienced, has great potential, particularly for diagnosing and treating diseases. People who practise paranormal healing methods believe that all our ideas and…

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Faith healing

Healing through an interpersonal relationship is a concept which goes back to the hand-healing used in ancient Oriental therapy and in the Egyptian temples over 3,000 years ago. It is possible that many of the apparent miracles performed by Jesus were the result of faith healing. However, in some cases it was spiritual healing, the…

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Hypnosis

Hypnosis is essentially a state of effective communication between the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind. It is a very simple and natural mental state, something similar to which we all experience when lying quietly in bed on waking, before going to sleep, or even while sitting in a chair day-dreaming. Meditation and states…

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Yoga and transcendental meditation

Western interest in Eastern thought, including ideas about sickness and (physical and mental) health, was stimulated enormously by the visit of the Beatles in 1968 to the Indian Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to be initiated in the doctrine of transcendental meditation. It is now practised by millions of people throughout the world. The practice of yoga…

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Biofeedback and autogenous training

Biofeedback and autogenic training are sophisticated techniques aimed at helping people to become more aware of certain body functions of which they are normally unaware and at teaching control of such functions. To a large extent the techniques are concerned with teaching people to induce relaxation and thus cope with anxiety, tension and stress. The…

How herbalism works
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How herbalism works

Most modern herbalists reject the mysticism, astrological connections and ideas such as the doctrine of signatures, that early practitioners often attached to their remedies. Herbalism aims to strengthen the body’s ability to resist disease and to make its own recovery, rather than to destroy the cause of the illness. Remedies are chosen according to the…

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Manipulation and massage

Alternative therapies based on manipulation and massage can be grouped under three headings: osteopathy, chiropractic and massage. The latter includes techniques such as Shiatsu and reflexology as well as classical massage. Osteopathy and chiropractic are related therapies with similarities but they are not the same. Differences are to be found, for example, in the actual…

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Chiropractic

Chiropractic is a system of therapy based on manipulation of the joints, particularly those of the spine. It emphasizes the role of the nervous system in good health and the system’s malfunction as a cause of disease. In this it differs from the theory behind osteopathy which concentrates more on the role of the circulatory…

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Massage

Massage is one form of remedy which everybody, consciously or unconsciously, resorts to at some time. Quite often when people feel a pain somewhere, they instinctively take hold of the place and press or rub the sore area in the hope that the pain will subside. For instance, if someone has a bad headache it…

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Reflexology

Reflexology is similar to Shiatsu in that it is another form of pressure-point massage but, unlike Shiatsu, the points that are massaged are all on the sole of the foot. Sometimes also known as foot-zone therapy, or the Ingham reflex method (after one of its main proponents, Eunice Ingham, 1889-1974), reflexology assumes that the whole…

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Acupuncture

Acupuncture therapy involves the insertion of fine needles into specific parts of the body for the relief of pain and the treatment of illness. It is now practised in many parts of the world but was first developed in China where records date back to about 3,000 BC. (It is also known that doctors in…

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The modernization of acupuncture

Since the 1950s, major innovations in acupuncture have been made mainly in Europe. These innovations have allowed acupuncture to develop, be taught and practised as an objective, technical discipline. Recognition has also been made of the many factors affecting health in the twentieth century that did not exist when traditional acupuncture came into being. How…

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Homoeopathy

Homoeopathy is based on the idea that ‘like cures like’. Thus the patient is given minute doses of a natural substance which, in a healthy person, would produce symptoms similar to those of the disease being treated. Symptoms, then, are not suppressed as in orthodox medicine but reinforced, in the belief that this will stimulate…

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Naturopathy

Water, air, sunlight and food are all essential for life and greatly influence our health. Naturopaths believe that by promoting health, rather than preventing disorders, and by removing obstacles to the normal functioning of the body, it is possible to overcome most disorders. They are not, however, simply concerned with the intricacies of body chemistry…

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Iridology

By looking at a person’s eyes you can usually tell a great deal about their general state of health. Bright, sparkling eyes are a sign of good health and vigour; dull, opaque eyes can indicate poor health or illness. Iridologists have taken this form of diagnosis much further. They believe that particular markings of sites…

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Tooth extraction

Dental extractions may be necessary for a number of reasons. Most common is gum disease and widespread decay. Teeth are often extracted for orthodontic purposes, to make room for the correct alignment of other teeth. Injury may result in loose or shattered teeth; occasionally these can be saved but often extraction is the best course….

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Nutritional therapy

Gone are the days when you could eat almost any foods – however fatty, salty or sugary – without experiencing some doubts as to whether you might be damaging your health. Faulty nutrition, it is said, is a cause of disease and, conversely, healthy eating can lead to improved health and even to a cure…

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Medicinal herbs

Herbal medicine, sometimes known as phytotherapy, is based on the cumulative knowledge acquired by herbalists over thousands of years. Many modern drugs originally derived from plants, for example Digitalis purpurea (foxglove), the value of which in medicine has never been completely dismissed, even by orthodox practitioners. Today herbalism is making something of a comeback in…

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Orthodontics

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry dealing with the relationship of teeth to each other, how they form the dental arch, how they bite together and their appearance. Adult teeth start forming soon after birth; they grow and erupt into the mouth to replace the primary or milk teeth from the age of about six…

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Alternative medicine

Somebody who seeks the advice of a practitioner of alternative medicine is clearly not content with orthodox medical science. Indeed, a number of objections are often raised against establishment medicine. Patients sometimes complain that they are treated not as individuals but merely as collections of symptoms. Another reason for dissatisfaction is that the medical profession…

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Traditional versus orthodox treatment

Orthodox medical treatments have achieved a well-deserved reputation in the areas of surgical procedures and emergency treatments. However, the sustained use of drugs in certain cases has been criticised by practitioners of traditional medicine. On the other hand, the absence of scientific evidence to confirm the way in which the natural therapies work has prevented…

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Types of traditional therapies

The new-found interest in natural therapies in the West was focused on six healing techniques during the late 1960s. Homoeopathy and hypnotherapy already had a history of practice within the medical profession, but acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy. Herbalism and healing were, and still are, practised largely by lay people. Meditation has always been used by groups…

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Scientific testing of traditional therapies

Another reason why there are so many therapies is that there is no scientific model for the way in which life energies work. Indeed, science has not yet found an instrument that can measure their effectiveness. An experiment performed in 1975 by two British researchers, Maxwell Cade and Geoffrey Blundell, which aimed to show the…

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Speech training

Many animals communicate with each other through sounds. Creatures such as whales and birds have a large repertoire of noises and calls, some with specific meanings. But in human beings our vocal facility has enabled us to develop a complex language, capable of not only straightforward communication but also of expressing abstract ideas and being…

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Physiotherapy

Many patients treated in hospital wards pass literally through the hands of the physiotherapist. The very young in the Special Care Baby Unit, the very old in the Geriatric Rehabilitation Ward, the teenage motorcyclist with a fractured thigh, the middle-aged housewife with a broken wrist or ‘slipped’ disc, the stroke victim, the paraplegic, the patient…

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Dentistry

By the eighteenth century, dentistry had become a recognized discipline in most European countries with organized lecture courses at teaching hospitals and legislation governing its practice. Before that time, the main dental ‘qualification’ needed by a practitioner was a strong arm to draw out decayed teeth. Itinerant toothdrawers could earn a lucrative living plying their…

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Scaling and polishing

When teeth are not cleaned properly they become coated with a sticky substance called plaque. This consists of food remains, the bacteria that feed on them, and the bacterial waste products such as acids. Plaque and enamel staining are usually removed with a rotary polisher and polishing paste. Calculus (scale) is a hard deposit which…

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Dental decay

Dental decay is the result of bacteria which produce acids which attack and erode the tooth surface. Following a meal or snack containing sugar the acidity in the mouth is raised. If this is high enough and remains for long enough, the enamel surface begins to demi-neralize and soften to form a minute cavity –…

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Dentures

If an individual has lost a number of teeth then the dentist may advise a denture. Not only can a denture improve the appearance of the teeth by filling the gaps, but it also provides extra teeth with which to chew. It can also improve speech defects caused by missing teeth. Dentures are made from…

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Crowns

Dental crowns are used when substantial tooth structure has been lost through decay or injury, but the root is still firm enough to anchor a protective coating. Crowns can also be used to improve the appearance of a tooth. In dental bridgework – a method employed to fill gaps left by extracted teeth – a…

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Bridges

Dental bridges are advanced dental work employing crowns to flank and support a false tooth which acts as a replacement for a lost or missing tooth. Preparation of the supporting or “abutment’ teeth is carried out by the dentist as for a crown, and following construction of the bridge by a dental technician, the crowns…

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Transplant surgery

In December 1967 the world was amazed to hear that the South African surgeon Christian Barnard (1922) had performed the first heart transplant. By transferring the heart of a young woman donor, who had died from brain injury after a car accident, he enabled recipient Louis Washkanskey to live for a further 18 days before…

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Organ donation and determining death

Every day otherwise fit people are dying in hospital as a result of accidental head injury or spontaneous bleeding into the brain. These people can often be resuscitated and temporarily placed on breathing machines. Because the machines are keeping their respiration going – usually a function of the brain – the heart receives oxygen and…

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Radiation treatment

For many years we have known that radiation and radioactivity can seriously harm health and even kill. Yet in controlled doses, and when concentrated on a specific site of the body, radiation can also cure or bring temporary relief. The trick is to kill the diseased cells or tissues without doing too much harm to…

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Rehabilitation

Following a major health problem, rehabilitation is the process by which an individual is helped to achieve his or her fullest physical potential. It is not tacked on to the recovery phase but begins with immediate preventative care in the first stage of an injury or illness. It is continued throughout the recovery or restorative…

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Medical help

New ways to combat cancer cells and better techniques to treat coronary heart disease are nowadays likely to become front page news. This shows that we think good health is of great value. Medical science has the task (and the financial means) of giving clear answers and solutions concerning questions on health versus disease, and…

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Medicines and drugs

Medicines are preparations we take to prevent or treat disease and illness. Early medicines included herbs, roots, berries and a whole gamut of unusual substances, such as tooth of wolf, crocodile dung and gall of goat. It is only in this century that pure drugs, chemical substances either synthesized or extracted from animal or plant…

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Metabolism, activity and excretion

When a drug enters the bloodstream there is always a portion that is carried through the liver, which is the principal site of drug metabolism. Some drugs are pharmacologically active to start with, and are metabolized in the liver to form inactive substances before they are eliminated from the body (synthetic reactions). Some antibacterial drugs…

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How do drugs act?

We know how drugs pass into and out of the body, but the mode of action of many of them is still unclear. It seems that some drugs interact with special cell or tissue elements to produce their characteristic pharmacological effects. The receptors involved appear to be proteins, enzymes, lipoproteins and nucleic acids. The complex…