Alternative health has become big business in Ireland over the last ten years. Treatments and disciplines such as Reiki and acupuncture used to be regarded with scepticism, but now, for many people, are a first line of treatment when recovering from many illnesses and injuries, from stress and depression through to broken bones and even cancer.
So what are the major categories of alternative therapy, and what are their benefits? In this, the first in a series of articles, we will attempt to give an outline of what treatments are available in clinics throughout Ireland, and just exactly what claims are made in their favour.
Acupuncture is one of the best known alternative practices; it originated in China more than two thousand years ago, and its methods diverged as it spread through Japan and Korea. It principally consists of sticking fine needles into certain points in the body, the so-called ‘Acupuncture Points’, in order to relieve pain or reduce symptoms of other ailments. In a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice this would possibly be done in conjunction with a traditional herbal treatment. There are many Irish practitioners, a large proportion of whom have developed their skills without having a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine culture, so how can a prospective patient be sure that they are receiving a qualified service? The Acupuncture Council of Ireland, TCMCI Ltd, is an Independent Professional Register of Acupuncturists in Ireland set up under the auspices of the Department of Health and Children. All its members are interviewed and their qualifications and insurance verified before becoming members of the ACI. Look for their logo on their literature.
Reflexology involves the stimulation, by applying pressure, of very specific zones of the hands, feet and ears. The different zones are reputed to be related to other, very different parts of the body. The underlying principle is that the manipulation of zones on the feet has a beneficial effect on the qi, or energy flow, of the individual. This in turn improves one’s physical health. As with acupuncture, practitioners of reflexology have a national accreditation group, the National Register of Reflexologists (Ireland), or NRRI. The NRRI was established in 1998 as a professional body to regulate the practice of reflexology in Ireland through qualified registered members and affiliated schools. The organisation is accredited as a professional regulatory body by QUINN-healthcare, VHI Healthcare, and AVIVA Health.
Similarly, Reiki induces a positive effect on the qi, but in this discipline energy is transferred from the healer to the patient through the palms of the Reiki master’s hands. The hands do not touch the patient, but are placed over the body in places where the energy will do most good. Reiki is not an ancient practice; it was developed in the early 1920s by a Japanese Buddhist monk named Mikao Usui. While there are many Reiki practitioners in Ireland, and several informal affiliations, there is currently no national recognised association regulating Reiki practitioners.
A Google search for Reiki practitioners in Ireland alone yields over 90,000 pages, so how can anyone get balanced information of the performance of one clinic against another? Knowing where to start looking for any alternative practitioner can be a daunting task, but one way to get genuinely valuable information is to ask someone who has been through this process in the past. If someone has used an acupuncture clinic and has had a positive experience, then they are likely to want to share that experience. That’s where a review site or a forum dealing specifically with alternative medicine comes into its own.