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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Many people use health care approaches considered outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine for specific conditions, overall health maintenance and/or well-being. Many people use non-mainstream approaches 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.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine generally uses the term "complementary health approaches" when discussing these practice approaches as well as other non-pharmaceutical products available for various health conditions, i.e. 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 Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), at Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 

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