Alternative Therapies and Complementary Medicine in the UAE
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Alternative Therapies and Complementary Medicine in the UAE

With a rise in demand for alternative therapies and complementary medicine, we take a look at what treatments are available worldwide and what they can be used to remedy.

Virtually unheard of 15 years ago, alternative therapies and treatments have seen a huge surge in interest and popularity during the past decade in the UAE and around the world.

The increased popularity of alternative therapies could be a result of people starting to pay more attention to organic ways of living  or the so-called ‘green movement’. Many people are looking for options to the standard method of treating disease and discomfort with pharmaceuticals, since reports of drug side-effects continue to grow and many viruses and bacteria have become highly drug-resistant, making them much harder to treat.

Whatever the reasons, it is undeniable that alternative therapies are playing a major role in peoples' health care and maintenance and this trend doesn't look likely to change any time in the near future. In 2006 the Dubai Healthcare City reported that an estimated 28% of UAE residents surveyed had received some form of alternative therapy in the past 12 months, and more clinics are opening regularly. And 2010 even a saw the opening of the UAE's first training center for complementary medicine; the Holistic Institute.

As a brief primer, “alternative therapy” has been slapped on a huge array of “treatments”, some with very real and quantifiable medical benefit and others not-so-much.Thus, the alternative therapy industry attracts individuals from almost every walk of life, from busy business people looking for stress relief, to professional athletes trying to cope with pain in a natural way, to hippies and yoga fans trying to find inner peace.

If you haven't tried alternative therapies yet, or still don't even have a clue what it really entails, read through the discussion below and familiarize yourself with some of the most popular options in the UAE. Maybe next time you are not feeling like yourself, one of these can help.

Chinese/Eastern Medicine

Widely held to be the oldest type of disease and health treatment, Chinese medicine dates back an estimated 4,000 years ago. Over the centuries, the Chinese have developed the practice of treating almost any ailment, from headaches to cancer (and anything in between), through the use of natural herbs, roots, and other organic materials. While it's true that much of what has been learned was through trial-and-error, the knowledge that has been passed down over the past 40+ generations now holds merit.

Chinese medicine is conducted on the premise of treating your body as a whole, with the goal of putting all your body's systems into balance and harmony with one another. This is supposed to result in your gradually returning to good health naturally, rather than treating individual symptoms to cure a particular illnesses one by one. This is done by talking to a Chinese medicine doctor to explain what pain, discomfort, or changes you have experienced and then being given a mixture of herbs to rectify the problems and bring things back into equilibrium.

As proof of the inroads Chinese medicine has made into the mainstream medical industry, it is now practiced in almost every country in the world and graduates hundreds of thousands of Chinese Medicine Doctors every year from medical universities in China and globally. In fact, Chinese medicine is so well respected in many countries in Asia that it is as popular or more popular than its Western medicine counterpart which involves pharmaceuticals and invasive surgery to treat disease.

Acupressure, Acupuncture and Chiropractic

Probably the most common and best known forms of alternative therapy, all three of these involve physical manipulation of your body to ease pain, release tension, or increase blood circulation.

Acupressure is widely practiced around the world and is now very common in the UAE since it is relatively painless and usually results are seen almost immediately. It involves applying pressure or rubbing on pressure points in various locations around your body to release the tensed muscles which cause soreness or tightness. Many people think of acupressure as strictly a massage, and while it does share many of the same traits, acupressure is much more focused and specific in its approach (and usually quicker) than a typical full-body massage. Furthermore, training for licensed acupressurists is more regulated than massage therapy.

Acupuncture is not unlike acupressure in that it is very focused and specific. The difference is that rather than merely pressing or rubbing, acupuncture uses thin needles placed into your skin or muscle tissue and then can be moved to stimulate the nerve ending to accomplish the intended task. In some cases, a very small electric charge can also be used if needed. Benefits include pain, headache, joint stiffness, gastrointestinal problems, and muscle tension relief and more. Acupuncture is widely held as a legitimate medical practice, and thankfully is well regulated around the world, as it should only done by qualified personnel.

Chiropractic care is widely recognized as helpful and is practiced around the globe. It is a medical procedure wherein the chiropractor (a licensed medical professional) manipulates your bones and joints to correct skeletal alignment with the goal of improved posture which should bring greater comfort through reduced stress on your muscular, vascular, nervous, and skeletal systems. Patients often report excellent results from chiropractic care, and it is probably the most common alternative therapy in the world and the UAE since it is often prescribed by Western and Eastern medicine experts alike in conjunction with other healthcare methods.


Recently recognized as a licensed healthcare system in the European Union, homeopathy is the practice of strengthening your body's defense and immune systems through herbal and other natural extracts instead of taking traditional prescription drugs. Homeopathic treatments are also available for people coping with emotional problems and depression. In the UAE, as with many other countries, strictly-homeopathic doctors as well as hybrid homeopathic-and-western medicine doctors are available to treat you.

Complementary Treatments - Reflexology, Massage, Aromatherapy, Color Therapy, Colon Irrigation

While some of these options are most commonly found on the list of services at a day spa, they deserve a mention since they can have a positive effect on your overall well-being.

Massage therapy is extremely popular, and is available in lots of variants. All legitimate versions involve massaging your muscles and joints to relieve stiffness, soreness, and tension.

Reflexology is not unlike acupressure in that it focuses on pressure points to initiate a response in your body. Reflexology though, usually focuses on your feet and hands with the thinking that there are pressure points in these areas that connect to all of your bodies other systems.

Colon irrigation or colon hydrotherapy is the cleansing of your colon and lower GI tract by flushing your entire colon with warm water to remove wastes and toxins that can cause bad health. As uncomfortable as it may sound, many people find it uplifting and even relaxing.

Aromatherapy and color therapy are likely the least medically accepted options on this list, but are mentioned because many claim that through experiencing calming scents and colors they find reduced stress and a sense of calm that can be long-lasting and curative.

Whether you decide to try out any of the therapies mentioned above is a personal decision and may have a lot to do with your amount of free time, stress level, and amount of disposable income since some are not cheap, but if they interest you, why not give them a shot?


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