Consider Alternative Therapies for Stress Relief

by Mike Collins

Good morning, class! This morning, we’ll have a quick, easy, pop quiz. Put a check beside any of the following physical stresses you might be experiencing:

  • Back, shoulder or neck pain, muscle tension
  • Chest pain
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure, irregular heart beat or heart palpitations
  • Loss of hair
  • Periodontal disease, jaw pain
  • Perspiration
  • Reproductive problems/infertility
  • Sexual dysfunction/lack of libido
  • Skin disorders (hives, eczema, psoriasis, itching)
  • Stomach/digestive problems (upset stomach, cramps, heartburn, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Weakened immune system suppression: more colds, flu, infections
  • Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)

If you are a caregiver and checked any of the maladies on the list, it is highly likely they are related to the stress of caregiving.

Are you willing to try remedies that have proven effective for thousands of years? Therapies, such as massage, acupuncture and natural remedies, may be just what the doctor ordered to provide relief.

If you are of a certain age, which most of us who are caregivers are, you might be skeptical of the various types of alternative treatment. However, these methods are no longer exotic curiosities. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared acupuncture needles as medical devices. The acceptance, popularity and professionalism of many of these methods has increased dramatically.

There’s an old saying that massage therapy is like pizza, there’s really no such thing as a bad massage. While that may not be true in all cases, there is a long list of reasons why you should explore bodywork. Life stresses cause many of us to tense our muscles—the fight or flight syndrome—in ways that can cause chronic pain.

I see a physical therapist every couple of weeks. I find the combination of massage and stretching, and the specialized exercises he suggests, keep me limber and decrease soreness.

A number of my friends swear by acupuncture. When I ask them if the insertion of the needles hurts, they consistently say, “No.” The treatment increases the body’s self-healing process. Most of the painful conditions on the list may be addressed with acupuncture.

Natural remedies have been used for as long as humans have walked the Earth. Do they work? Pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t be studying plants, taking extracts of them, and patenting them as drugs if they didn’t. Ginger has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits and helps regulate blood sugar. Lavender promotes sleep and relaxation, and is a pain reliever. Red yeast rice contains the active ingredient in statins, and willow tree bark contains the active ingredient in aspirin.

How do you know what might work for you? Ask your doctor, friends or family, and do your research. Expect appropriate licenses and professional certifications. Communicate fully, clearly and honestly about your conditions. If the treatments work, great! If not, try something else.

In the vast majority of situations, relief is out there, you simply have to take responsibility for your health and keep trying!


Collins is the producer of the video, “Care for the Caregiver,” winner of a National Caregiver Friendly Award. For more caregiving tips, visit 

©2017 Mike Collins