Acupuncture & co.: which treatment is best for you?

Complementary medicine is becoming increasingly popular all over the world and in Switzerland, too. We’ve put together a list of the most common treatments with advice on when and how they can be used.

Text: Anna Miller; photo: Sanitas

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) aims to promote and maintain the flow of qi (vital energy) around the body. It uses different techniques such as acupuncture and Qigong, cupping and dietary and lifestyle advice. 

Who should use it and when?

TCM is particularly suitable when no physical cause of a person’s symptoms can be clearly determined. This may be the case, for example, if the person suffers from irritated bowels, non-specific pain or allergies. TCM can also be used when babies and young children feel unwell.

Scientifically proven?

There is very little evidence. However, the effect of acupuncture is scientifically proven.


Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes physical manipulation of the body’s muscle tissue and bones. Gentle pressure and massage activate the body’s self-healing powers. 

Who should use it and when?

Osteopathy is primarily used to restore the body’s mobility, with a focus on bones, joints, tendons, muscles and organs. It can be used to treat migraines, back pain or slipped discs, for example. As the technique is gentle, it is also suitable for babies and elderly people.

Important: Osteopathy shouldn’t be confused with chiropractic treatment. A chiropractor is more likely to “pop” or “crack” the joints. An osteopathic physician does not usually do this. A chiropractor will focus on a specific problem area, while an osteopath looks at the body as a whole.

Scientifically proven?

There is very little evidence. Studies investigating chronic spinal pain syndromes have delivered the best results.


Phytotherapy or botanical medicine uses plants, leaves, roots, fruit and seeds to treat and prevent illnesses. It is one of the oldest medical treatments.

Who should use it and when?

Suitable for all areas of application. In many cases, medicinal herbs are used as extended home remedies in the form of creams, tablets or drops. For example, St. John’s wort can be used for mild depression or caraway for bloating. 

Important: if your symptoms persist, you should consult a doctor or pharmacist. Herbal medicines can also have side effects.

Scientifically proven?

Yes. Phytotherapy in particular claims to meet scientific standards in the treatment of diseases.

Craniosacral therapy

Craniosacral therapy is an alternative method of treatment in which the therapist uses special hand movements to relieve a variety of symptoms. CST uses a light touch to examine membranes and movement of fluids in and around the central nervous system. 

Who should use it and when?

Craniosacral therapy is suitable for treating symptoms such as headaches, tension and circulatory disorders. It is ideal for people who prefer gentle methods of treatment. 

Important: special care must be taken with newborns, because it can cause brain injury.

Scientifically proven?

There is very little evidence. Positive effects in reducing chronic pain.


Hydrotherapy or water cure uses water for the therapeutic treatment of acute and chronic pain. It uses water in all its forms, e.g. packing, alternating hot and cold water immersion or underwater massages.

Who should use it and when?

Hydrotherapy can be used for treatment and prevention and optimises the body’s thermoregulation and immune system. It also helps with fever management, stabilisation of the nervous system and performance enhancement. 

Important: hydrotherapy can aggravate inflammation and oedema.

Scientifically proven?



Kinesiology treats a wide range of issues, collecting feedback via muscle tension. For example, the patient stretches their arm out and the therapist applies gentle pressure to identify which topics trigger a stress reaction. The aim is to help patients modify their behaviour and to become more proactive in creating their own health and well-being.

Who should use it and when?

Kinesiology can be used, for example, to treat anxiety, stress and sleep disorders or to address personal issues and better manage difficult phases of life.

Scientifically proven?