Here are some alternative therapies that may be coming to a pediatrician's office near you.
Tiny preemies in neonatal intensive care units grow and develop better when they're massaged, according to groundbreaking research done at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. And not only do the tiniest benefit: Massage is proven to give kids relief from symptoms of asthma, insomnia, colic, cystic fibrosis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
These treatments include acupuncture, Reiki, homeopathy, polarity therapy, and therapeutic touch therapies that may seem wildly different, but which all rely on the decidedly nontraditional concept of manipulating the "energy fields that surround and penetrate the human body in order to stimulate healing." These treatments are considered both gentle and safe.
- Acupuncture is one of a variety of Asian practices that involve stimulating points on the bodyeither with hair-thin needles (classic acupuncture), electric stimulation, vigorous massage (called shiatsu), hand and finger pressure (acupressure), or other techniques. Acupuncture can ease children's nausea and vomiting following surgery and chemotherapy; it may also be helpful for chronic headaches and allergies. Find practitioners online.
- Therapeutic touch is taught in more than 80 nursing schools and offered in many hospitals; its premise is that healing happens when the body's energies are in balance. Nurse-healers are trained to identify and treat energy imbalances to make people of all ages feel better. Find qualified practitioners.
- Homeopathy uses small, highly diluted medicines to stimulate healing. According to the report, some 3,000 healers, including MDs, RNs, chiropractors, naturopaths, and even dentists, use homeopathy in their practicesand up to 10% of children use homeopathic remedies. Because remedies are so diluted, homeopathy is considered safe when used as directed. Learn more or find a practitioner.
Therapies that engage a child's imagination, including hypnosis and guided imagery, partner effectively with traditional treatments for relieving pain, anxiety, bed-wetting, sleep problems, and behavioral issueswith nearly zero side effects. Learn more about guided imagery.
The Pediatrics article comes to no conclusions about using herbal medicine to treat children's health problems, noting that herbs' variablespurity, potency, preparation, dosage, time of harvest, proper handling and identificationmake them notoriously difficult to study. Studies of echinacea to prevent or treat kids' colds, for example, have had mixed results. Still, many prominent herbalists suggest the herb to treat colds and upper respiratory infections because, based on their clinical experience, it works. Visit the American Herbalists Guild to find an AHG–credentialed practitioner or to learn more. Another excellent resource on herbal medicine is Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach by Merrily A. Kuhn and David Winston.