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The Best Alternative Therapies

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Acupuncture & Biofeedback

Acupuncture

May help:Menstrual cramps, tennis elbow and tendinitis injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness or chemotherapy.

How it works:Thin, disposable needles are inserted into the skin at key points in the body. Acupuncture is based on the principle that the needles unblock vital energy (called "qi") that circulates in the body through invisible channels, or meridians. The meridians connect various organs-so a needle applied to the wrist may treat a problem in the lungs. Western scientists theorize that the needles stimulate the body to produce naturally occurring painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins.

Caveats: If the needles hurt, ask the practitioner to adjust them. (Most acupuncture sessions are actually painless -- often even pleasant and relaxing.) You can also try a needle-free treatment like acupressure -- the practitioner uses her fingers instead of needles to stimulate pressure points.

For more info: Contact the American Association of Oriental Medicine (aaom.org) or the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (nccaom.org). An initial visit with a licensed acupuncturist will cost $60 to $100 and follow-up sessions about $30 to $80. The average length of treatment is six to eight sessions.

Biofeedback

May help:Anxiety, tension and migraine headaches, incontinence, Raynaud's disease (a circulation disorder), hypertension, insomnia, attention deficit disorder.

How it works: Electronic devices are attached to the skin to help you monitor and gain control over body functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.

"Biofeedback is a way to access the link between your mind and body," says James Gordon, M.D., director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. To treat hypertension, for example, a therapist might attach sensors to a machine that measures fluctuations in blood pressure. The readings are then translated into an image on a monitor. By observing these changes, you can consciously reduce your blood pressure through relaxation techniques.

Caveats: Work with a professional only. Home biofeedback devices are too complicated for accurate results, says Dr. Dillard. For more info: Contact the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback at 800-477-8892 or log on to aapb.org. Sessions with a biofeedback professional can cost as much as $150; length of treatment varies depending on individual needs.

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