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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Many people use health care approaches considered to be outside of mainstream Western or conventional medicine for specific conditions, overall health maintenance, and/or well-being, often along with conventional treatments. The boundaries between complementary and conventional medicine often overlap and change over time. For example, guided imagery and massage, both once considered complementary or alternative, are used regularly in some hospitals to help with pain management. Other approaches include deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, qigong, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, meditation, special diets, homeopathy, and progressive relaxation. The NIH's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) generally uses the term "complementary health approaches" when discussing these practice approaches as well as other non-pharmaceutical products used for various health conditions, such as essential oils, sage, etc.

Physical Therapy treatments include:

  • Massage and Deep Tissue Mobilization targets spasms and chronic muscle tension
  • Manipulation of joints and bones
  • Manual therapy using hands or tools on soft tissue
  • Modalities of electrical nerve and muscle stimulation
  • Ultrasound
  • Cold laser therapy to alleviate inflammation and pain and release endorphins
  • Microcurrent stimulation to alleviate pain
  • Movement therapy and exercise: Therapists will teach various exercises to improve flexibility, strength, core stability, endurance, and range of motion.


1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 

2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving , and Thought Field Therapy Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving , are two examples of complementary treatment therapies currently in use in Indian Health Service facilities.