Alternative Treatments

From elimination diets to homeopathy, we asked local experts to weigh in and reveal where to go for

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Seattle’s abundance of alternative treatment providers might have something to do with our close ties to Asia or the fact that Bastyr University, one of the world’s leading natural health organizations, is located right in our backyard. While this confluence has led to a lot of options for nontraditional treatments—elimination diets, energy balancing and homeopathy, to name a few—the choices can become confusing. We asked local experts to weigh in and reveal what a few of these treatments do, who should have them and where to find them. 

What it is:
Based on the principles of Chinese medicine, which focus on the life energy force known as qi, this therapeutic treatment involves the insertion of very fine acupuncture needles into specific locations on the body’s surface called acupuncture points. Seattle-based naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist Christy Lee-Engel often describes acupuncture needles as the keys that unlock acupuncture points so that energy channels in the body open up and the qi flows.

Who it benefits: If you’re suffering from pain but want to avoid medication, acupuncture may be for you—it’s one of the best-known alternative treatments for pain relief. It’s also used for treating everything from nausea and addictions to allergies and sleep disorders.

What to know before trying it: Needle phobes may not want to consider acupuncture, but acupuncture needles are nothing like the long, sharp ones used for shots. The small, fine needles go in so smoothly that some people don’t even feel them.

Credential check: Look for a state licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) or, for someone with even more knowledge behind the needles, a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (D.A.O.M.). Bastyr University’s School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine provides the only university-accredited DAOM program in the United States. Where to find it: One Sky Wellness in Roosevelt where Lee-Engel works and Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Wallingford. When money is tight, check out CommuniChi, Beacon Hill’s community acupuncture clinic offering acupuncture treatments on a sliding scale of $15–$35.

What it is: This mind-body tool teaches people how to improve their health using signals from their own bodies. During a biofeedback session, a therapist attaches electrical sensors to parts of the body that yield information; the sensors are connected to a computer that monitors the body’s physiological response to stress. For instance, sensors can record muscle contraction during a tension headache, then feed the information back to you via cues such as a beeping sound or a flashing light. The feedback allows you to associate your body’s response—in this case, headache pain—with muscle tension. With the help of a trained biofeedback therapist, you can learn to avoid tension headaches by relaxing specific muscles. 

Who it benefits: Clinical psychologist and biofeedback specialist at Biofeedback Solutions Steven Rothman, Ph.D., says the largest clinical application is for those suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD), but he adds that biofeedback can be helpful for a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression and migraine headaches. Most recently, Rothman’s work focuses on how neurofeedback (biofeedback focused on the brain) can help those with autism spectrum disorders.

What to know before trying it: The training is often most effective when integrated with other types of therapy such as relaxation exercises, medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Credential check: Look for certification by the B