Complementary care

What is complementary care?

Complementary careComplementary care is used to relieve suffering and to improve the quality of life. It is used alongside regular healthcare and it actually already exists for centuries. During the last few years there is more and more attention for complementary care, because people are starting to find out that mainstream healthcare is often not enough.

Complementary care

The complementary forms of care are called "complementary" because they cannot replace regular care. This is because these forms of care are not focussed on curing conditions. Rather the complementary care is directed to combat the symptoms and to improve the quality of life. There are not that many care institutions and organisations in the West that offer complementary care, because there is often no scientific proof that these forms of care work. The complementary care on offer has however greatly increased in the last couple of years, and it is expected that more and more institutions and organisations will start offering complementary care.

How did complementary care originate?

In fact complementary care already exists for centuries, while regular healthcare only came into being about a century ago. Because in the past there was no or hardly any regular care, the people needed to take care of themselves with natural products found only in their direct surroundings. This body of knowledge of herbs, aromas and other remedies was formed over years of experience and was handed down from generation to generation.
Modern medicine (regular care) arose in the 19th century and from then on less and less importance was placed on and trusted with the workings of complementary care. For the forms of complementary care there was no scientific proof available, while this was available for the regular care. Many healers were not allowed anymore to perform their centuries old professions when the Law of Thorbecke was put into place. According to this law, only doctors and healers that graduated from licensed universities were able to perform their professions. The advantage of this was that the population was protected from quacks and charlatans. This also meant however that the complementary care that does work and had been working for years was hardly practiced anymore.
From the year 1960 onwards, more and more people started to notice that regular care also has its limitations and in some cases even has adverse effects on our health. During those times the popularity of folk medicine increased. People started to find out that the connection between body, mind, spirit and surroundings are important. For this reason people started choosing complementary care - on the basis of herbs, essential oils and relaxation exercises - more and more often as a means to improve health and sense of wellbeing.


One form of complementary care is working with herbs, also called phytotherapy or herbal medicine. This form of medicine is actually as ancient as the homo sapiens itself. Centuries ago the people were purely dependent upon nature and thus also on the area of medicine. Only products from the surroundings could be used as medicine and therefore herbs were often chosen.
Current phytotherapy describes the medicinal workings of the different herbs. From this it can be decided which herbs can be used to help reduce different conditions. There will also be looked at the different parts of the plant and then it is chosen to work with the whole plant or only a part if it.

Working with essential oils

Working with essential oils is another form of complementary care that is just as ancient as herbal medicine. Essential oils are derived from plants and according to this form of care the smells of the plants can reduce suffering. Since about a century ago, working with essential oils has gained a lot of popularity, even though this complementary form of care only started to be applied about thirty years ago in Netherlands for instance. It was then also called aromatherapy. At first it was only used for skin therapy, but later on also in the professional care and nursing. If the essential oils are being used in care, we do not speak of aroma therapy but 'working with essential oils'.
For relieving complaints and improving the quality of life, the essential oils can be applied internally as well as externally. Applying these oils internally is done through the method of inhalation (in some cases also called aromatherapy). It is however also possible to apply these essential oils on the skin, which is also called external use. Essential oils can be used to improve health, heighten the sense of well being or treat different diseases and illnesses.

Listening to music

We all listen to music, but we are often not conscious of the workings of music on the body and mind. Actually many of us are already applying music therapy unconsciously in our daily lives. Before we go to a party we listen to music that gives us more energy. When we want to focus we choose a particular kind of music with a certain rhythm with little to no vocals. And when we are sad, we listen to sad music that helps us express our emotions.
Because music does a lot to us, it can also be applied as a form as complementary care. It has a positive influence on the expressing and experiencing of our emotions. Music can help us to reduce stress or to gain more energy. Music therapy is also used to bring about personal development, acceptation or change. A treatment through music can be guided by a so called music therapist. This kind of therapist makes a plan of action with music with which he pays attention to the different musical elements such as the beat, rhythm, sound, harmony and melody.

Dance therapy and the body-mind connection

More recently, dance therapy is gaining popularity. By dancing to music, without a particular form or particularly learned dance moves, a person can feel their emotions and express them through moving their bodies. As the connection between mind, emotions, body and spirit is becoming more and more apparent, we are starting realise that emotions are often stored in our physical body. For instance, people that are experiencing a lot of sadness, often have a bodily posture of which the chest is closed and the head is hanging down. You can see this for yourself! The next time you are feeling really down and depressed, or emotional, pay attention to what posture your body is taking. Or when you are in a more happy state and feeling rather self confident, do you notice how your bodily posture is different to the one where you are feeling down? By experiencing prolonged stress and emotional hardship, the bodily posture of having a closed chest becomes chronic; the short chest muscles become shorter and pull your shoulders forward.
Allowing yourself to really feel the music of different genres, sad, angry and happy music, you can allow your body to move through these different emotional states. By allowing the body take up a large variety of postures, the body can release these unconscious tensions that make up your bodily posture determine the general state of the mind-body. You can experience new ways of being, through the dance! And then take these new ways of being into the world outside. In the West we can see a big movement happening where besides the availability of dance therapy, a lot of so called 'ecstatic dances' are being organised. An ecstatic dance is a drug and alcohol free dance event, usually lasting for about 1,5 to 3 hours. where people come together to "shake it off". It is all about conscious dance where the slogan is "dance as if nobody is watching". In an ecstatic dance a safe space is created in which you are free to express yourself in whatever way you like, often working through emotions while dancing to the different genres that are being played through the dance.

Relaxation exercises

The tensions that we are experiencing in our daily lives can have mental as well as physical complaints as a result. Therefore we can do different relaxation exercises to help reduce different ailments and increase the sense of wellbeing. These are exercises that help us relax, through which we can experience fewer complaints and can function better. Yoga and meditation already use a lot of relaxation exercises.
You can take up yoga classes or meditation classes to relax more fully and thereby increase the quality of life. It is however also very possible to do these relaxation exercises at home or at work. In most relaxation exercises there is a strong focus on the rhythm of the breath and on bodily sensations. The idea behind these exercises is that often in the West, through our culture of stimulation and rational thinking, we become stuck in our minds. In most jobs nowadays we are stuck behind a desk and we are not moving our bodies, we are only moving thoughts around in our minds. Because we start to think too much we start to experience stress and it becomes difficult not to overthink things. When we do relaxation exercises that focus our awareness into our bodies, often through focussing on the breath (a bodily sensation), we can become more present of the very moment we are living in and become more aware of our own bodies and the thoughts that are causing stress may decrease.


Massage is also part of complementary care. A massage can have a direct effect on the body, because particular pressure points are being stimulated. Physical therapists also often make use of massage techniques to treat injuries or too much tension in the body. A massage improves blood pressure and helps muscles relax.
Massage do not only have a physical effect however. Receiving a massage has the effect that your body is able relax. This physical effect has in turn a positive influence on mental issues. Furthermore it also helps you to become more conscious of your body. There are different kinds of massage. You can for instance choose for a full body massage, or only a massage of hands and feet. Some massages use oils and even hot stones.
One really effective type of massage to reduce tensions in the body is that of Thai massage, or perhaps even better, Thai Yoga massage. Thai Yoga massage (but Thai massage as well) incorporates pressure points with passive stretches. Tensions that are built up in the muscles and connective tissues are thus released in two ways, by both applying pressure to particular spots of the muscles but also stretching them out. In this way the muscles can let go of those tensions that make your body and mind so rigid, allowing you to relax more, be more present of the moment and your body, and in general become a more happy person!
Besides the complementary care listed above, there are many more types of complementary care that can assist you in improving your quality of life. Notice that there may also be charlatans in the business of complementary care. When you meet someone for an interview or when you are reading about a particular type of therapy or therapist, make sure to read and listen carefully and listen you your guts if you can trust this kind of therapy. When you are receiving these kind of therapies or practicing some of the exercises, feel deeply within with a lot of awareness if this therapy is really making you feel better. Stop going to therapists who you do not have a good feeling with, who seem to be more interested in money than curing you, and start finding those complementary therapists who are really wanting to help you and share their passion for health and wellbeing.


Article written by: roybor
Times read: 1811x
Added: 24-12-2016 07:32
Last modified: 27-01-2017 22:20

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