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Do complementary therapies for HIV and AIDS work?

for Veterans and the Public

Physical (body) therapies

Physical, or body, therapies include such activities as yoga, massage, and aromatherapy. These types of therapies focus on using a person's body and senses to promote healing and well-being. Here you can learn about examples of these types of therapies.

Yoga

Yoga is a set of exercises that people use to improve their fitness, reduce stress, and increase flexibility.

Yoga can involve breathing exercises, certain stretches and poses, and meditation. (See the Meditation section for more information on what this is.)

Many people, including people with HIV, use yoga to reduce stress and to become more relaxed and calm. Some people think that yoga helps make them healthier in general, because it can make a person's body stronger.

If you would like to try yoga, talk to your VA health care provider. There are many different types of yoga and various classes you can take. You can also try out yoga by following a program on videotape.

Before you begin any kind of exercise program, always talk with your doctor.

Massage

Many people believe that massage therapy is an excellent way to deal with the stress and side effects that go along with having an illness, including HIV.

During massage therapy, a trained therapist moves and rubs your body tissues (such as your muscles). There are many kinds of massage therapy.

You can try massage therapy for reducing muscle and back pain, headaches, and soreness. Massages also can improve your blood flow (your circulation) and reduce tension. Some people think that massages might even make your immune system stronger.

If you are interested in learning more about massage, you should ask your VA doctor to recommend a trained therapist. Your VA doctor may have a list of trained massage therapists, so if you want to learn more about massage, ask.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is part of a whole healing system known as traditional Chinese medicine. During acupuncture treatment, tiny needles (about as wide as a hair) are inserted into certain areas of a person's body. Most people say that they don't feel any pain at all from the needles.

Many people with HIV use acupuncture. Some people think that acupuncture can help treat symptoms of HIV and side effects from the medicine, like fatigue and stomach aches.

Some people say that acupuncture can be used to help with neuropathy (body pain caused by nerve damage from HIV or the medicines used to treat HIV).

Others report that acupuncture gives them more energy.

If you are interested in trying it out, ask your VA doctor to recommend an expert. At the end of this guide are links to Web sites where you can read more about the history of acupuncture and how it works.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is based on the idea that certain smells can change the way you feel. The smells used in aromatherapy come from plant oils, and they can be inhaled (breathed in) or used in baths or massages.

People use aromatherapy to help them deal with stress or to help with fatigue. For example, some people report that lavender oil calms them down and helps them sleep better.

You can also ask friends or family if they've tried aromatherapy or know someone who has. At the end of this guide are links to Web sites where you can learn more about aromatherapy.

Please remember! The oils used in aromatherapy can be very strong and even harmful. Always talk with an expert before buying and using these oils yourself.