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The Best Alternative Therapies

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Americans are trying nontraditional medicine in record numbers. Here's what will work for you.

Relieve Pain

The room looked like any other doctor's office, with its padded examination table and sterile needles. But there were a few exceptions: A soft smell of incense filled the air, the lights were dimmed, and in the background was the soothing sound of water trickling over rocks. And those sterile needles were sticking right out of my ear lobe, my forehead and the back of my leg.

I was at the acupuncturist's office. It was 10 weeks before I was due to run a marathon, and I was desperate to relieve a nagging shin pain that threatened to sideline me. Ice, anti-inflammatories and even physical therapy hadn't really helped, so on a friend's advice, I had decided to try acupuncture. Six treatments and many painless needle pricks later, I felt better. The ache in my shin had diminished, and I was far more relaxed and prepared to run the distance.

Today the idea of visiting an acupuncturist barely raises an eyebrow. In fact, more than a third of all Americans are currently using some sort of alternative medicine, suggests a study published in the August 2001 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. One key reason: The scientific community has begun to investigate-and laud-the many benefits of these treatments, says James Dillard, M.D., a professor of medicine at Columbia University and coauthor of Alternative Medicine for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide, 1998). "Even the word alternative has fallen out of favor," Dr. Dillard says. Today most health-care providers prefer to use the term complementary to illustrate the integration of traditional and alternative treatments.

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