Three years ago, I was absolutely convinced there was something terribly wrong with me as yet another doctor told me that my test results turned up negative and I was healthy. And why wouldn’t I be? Habitually, I would assess myself for any deficiencies and made it a personal goal to master the seemingly impossible task of optimizing my micro-nutritional status. I was active, rarely drank alcohol – although admittedly I also rarely drank enough water – and I was happy.

So why?

After many months did I still have this pronounced, irritating eye twitch – seemingly out of nowhere? And the symptoms kept piling up. I had frequent dizzy spells, fingertip sensitivity, migraines and my back muscles starting seizing. I had extreme anxiety and was experiencing paranoia. Maybe I’m imagining it. Maybe I’ve ingested poison. Really though, four months with an eye twitch is enough to make anyone mad.

I’d had countless medical exams, blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds – I couldn’t be healthier. I insisted I wasn’t imagining these symptoms. The doctor’s exasperation matched my own. Here are some pills for anxiety; do you need to take time off work? Impossible, I thought – contrary to the norm – I loved my job. I loved the deadlines, the pressure, the thrill of working in a fast-paced, ever-evolving environment. My anxiety was tied to my sudden onset of symptoms. Every twitch brought with it renewed fear that something was seriously wrong. I needed to take a different approach. On the advice of a close friend I decided to see an osteopath.

One visit later, it has been established that I had an overstimulated vagus nerve and a twisted liver which was the cause of my sleeplessness and muscle pain. The eye twitch? My facial muscles pulling on the right side of my face – most likely from sitting for longer than normal hours in an office chair (my default position is an impressive side slouch). My anxiety over my symptoms was the root cause of my lack of concentration, depression, and weight gain as my hormones fluctuated due to my elevated cortisol levels. None of which had shown up in any of my tests.

Stress is sneaky. Sometimes, as was my case, you aren’t even aware you are under duress. It can start small and unassuming, it can morph from physical to emotional or simply disguise itself as a challenge you are willing to accept – as was my case with my work. As much as I thrived on it, I was not allowing myself or my body to recover and reset. It’s true what they say – you can have too much of a good thing. And everything should be taken in moderation.

With this in mind, I recognized that while I was grateful to have access to traditional healthcare, that too has it’s place and function. There is a competent natural medical/therapeutic community that can compliment and offer alternatives to traditional medicine who are dedicated to assessment, treatment and prevention.

It is said that the key to good health is a proper balance and attention to the three pillars of wellness: your mind, body and soul.  Here is a shallow breakdown of just some of alternative treatments and professionals that embrace this philosophy.

Osteopathy

Osteopathy was developed approximately 150 years ago by a doctor in Missouri, and involves a soft, hands on technique which is called “palpation”, which helps the practitioner to detect the parts of the body that aren’t functioning properly. Palpation can help identify numerous issues, including congestion, dehydration and stiffness, while also helping to restore the proper functionality to all parts of the body: bones, muscles, fluids and organs.

The idea behind osteopathy is essentially that health problems all have structural components, with the skeleton being the frame, and our organs, muscles, ligaments and tendons making up the structure. If any part of the frame or structure becomes displaced, or is injured in some way, it will not perform the way it is intended too. The effects of this can trickle down into other parts of the body (secondary effects), because other parts of the body start to compensate for the non-properly functioning part of the structure. Osteopathy works to cure this through gentle and specifically intended techniques.

Some of the most common issues treated through Osteopathy include back pain, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain and muscle strains.

Reflexology

The practice of reflexology is essentially when pressure is applied to specific parts of the feet, hands or ears. Practitioners of this alternative therapy believe that certain parts of the body correspond to different body organs and systems, and that when points on the hands, feet or ears are pressed, it has a beneficial effect on those organs and overall health.

Most people use it to complement other treatments, as reflexology is not considered or proven to be a cure for anything. It is also commonly used (especially in European countries) as a preventative measure.

There is general agreement between reflexologists on major reflex points, and general maps of reflexology areas have been made and are used globally. To give an example, the mapping of the feet, shows the left foot corresponding to the left side of the body, and the right foot corresponding to the right side of the body.

You can go in for a general reflexology session, where the reflexologist will work on all areas of the hands, feet and ears, or if you

have a specific problem area you would like addressed, they can concentrate on that as well. (For example, the ears are said to relate to relaxation, so if you are feeling stressed out, you could book an reflexology appointment that just concentrates on the ears).

Sometimes massage and reflexology get mixed up, but the approaches are quite different. Massage focuses on the manipulation of soft tissues to help relax the muscles using specific movements, and reflexology is specific points that are touched using unique micro movements.

Massage Therapy

The practice of massage therapy involves the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, more specifically, the manipulation of muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and joints. The manipulation of these body parts helps to improve the muscular, nervous and circulatory systems. Certain types of pain can be healed through massage therapy, and it can also work as a great stress reliever.

Usually, patients will go in for an initial assessment, and then the therapist can come up with a personalized treatment plan. The assessment will provide information on the condition of your muscles and joints, and reveal if there are any problem areas.

Massage is one of the oldest methods of natural treatments, with references to it dating back almost 4000 years in some medical texts. Massage therapists apply various amounts of pressure, depending on what the issue that is being worked on. Some of the techniques used during massage include: holding, rocking, friction, kneading and compression, all which are applied using the hands, although some massage therapists do employ the use of other body parts such as forearms, which helps create more pressure.

The benefits of massage therapy are said to include: relaxes the body, loosens muscles, increases flexibility, relieves pain, calms the nervous system, lowers the heart rate, enhances the skin tone, and much more.

Naturopathy

From the dawn of time, there have always been healers. Those that believe in the healing power of the world around them. Hippocrates, a Greek physician living over 2400 years ago, was the first to delve into this concept, and ever since, it has remained at the core of which naturopathic medicine revolves. The practices have obviously changed in the last several thousand years, evolving to include things such as botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle counseling. Just in the last decade, it has become a more widely accepted form of medicine; people have begun to embrace the idea of being more in control of their own health, and more informed about how their bodies work.

Naturopathy is a blend of modern, traditional and natural medicine. The idea is to always treat the underlying cause of the disease, not just deal with the symptoms of the disease. Symptoms of disease are warning signals for improper body function and naturopathy seeks to find the parts that are malfunctioning.

Generally, the prescription of drugs is avoided, and ailments are treated through vitamins, education, diet changes and lifestyle. They operate on the philosophy that it’s easier to work on preventative measures instead of treating something once it develops.

By Tina Lanzillotta & Megan Pasche