Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A new look at an old problem
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A new look at an old problem
Members of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital staff participate in a Reiki demonstration for the new Complementary and Alternative Medicine lecture series. The free, monthly meetings focus on teaching patients and staff therapies that heal the mind, body, and spirit. (Department of Defense photo by Hospital Corpsman Renulfo Morales)

by Kristin Ellis
Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Public Affairs Office

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (June 4, 2014) -- Fort Belvoir Community Hospital hosted its first Complementary and Alternative Medicine lecture May 28, teaching patients and staff therapies that heal the mind, body, and spirit.

The monthly lecture – which focused on Reiki – is free and open to all patients and Belvoir hospital staff. Integrative and Holistic Medicine combines the best of Western Medicine (surgery and medications) with that of Eastern Medicine (Complementary and Alternative Medicine, as known as CAM) to optimize one’s health, said Public Health Capt. George Ceremuga, chief of Integrative Holistic Medicine.

Some CAM modalities include: acupuncture, acupressure, nutrition, herbal and botanical medications, meditation, massage, exercise, yoga, and spirituality. Many of the CAM modalities promote self-care to empower the patients to “heal thyself.”

“The body has an amazing inherent capacity for self-healing and self-regulating by living a healthy lifestyle,” Ceremuga said. “CAM lectures have the opportunity to promote a culture of self-healing and encourage staff and patients to live a life of wellness.”

In the past five years, the Defense Department has moved to reduce the number of potentially addictive prescriptions. A DoD task force in 2010 released a comprehensive pain management plan for physicians, and the Pentagon has cut the percentage of active-duty troops receiving opiate-based painkillers from 26 percent in 2011 to 24 percent last year.

CAM is useful for pain management, wound healing, hospice care, stress reduction, immune function, cancer treatment, post-operative recovery, and relaxation response.
“Integrative medicine incorporates the best evidence-based healing oriented practices and life-style changes, with conventional medical approaches to ameliorate disease and alleviate suffering,” Ceremuga said.

“Combining the best of western medicine with complementary and alternative medicine to create a center of health and well being takes organizational commitment and hard work,” he said. “Done well, the pay-off is a healthier, more vibrant and resilient community/nation.”


Reiki is a Japanese practice that originated in Japan in the early 20th century. It’s a subtle meditative practice that promotes stress relief, balance, and self-healing. Light-pressured, motionless touch in a sequence of hand placements, helps relieve stress and is balancing to the system.

Reiki instructor Christine Mosley, who taught the first class, practices and teaches Reiki self care as a simple and effortless form of meditation. During her daily 30-minute Reiki self care practice, she follows a series of light hand placements that cover the major organs and the endocrine system, keeping her hands in one place for about three minutes before moving to the next hand position.

“The relaxation response comes easily and without any effort,” Mosley said. “Science does not yet know what the mechanism of action is with Reiki. My personal model is, that the still (stationary) hand placements remind our system of its ability to be still. The warmth of human touch is an additional element that feels soothing and comforting.”

Benefits of Reiki Self Care are reduced stress and anxiety, increased self-awareness, and a greater sense of peace. Mosley noted improved digestion and better pain management.
“Reiki self care facilitates our self-healing response because it is deeply relaxing and balancing,” Mosley said. “It reduces stress and brings our system back into balance. A relaxed body and mind give us a foundation for healing, and make us more resilient.”

Reiki is easily learned and practiced. Reiki can be learned in four hours, giving patients and health care workers a self-care tool that is easily accessed through light hand placements. It is a simple form of meditation that can be practiced anywhere and anytime. Reiki empowers patients to be engaged in their own health care, and gives medical staff a tool to avoid burnout.

“Many people report a sense of overall improved well being and mental alertness/positivity in their lives with the routine practice of meditation,” Ceremuga said. “By using meditation, we allow our body to heal itself and not rely on a ‘pill for an ill’ and possible adverse side effects.”

Binaural Beat Technology

The next CAM lecture focuses on Binaural Beat Technology (BBT), sound technology that has the ability to impact brainwave activity in turn affecting mental, physical, or emotional states.

Through stereo headphone, a tone is sent to one ear while a tone of a slightly different frequency is sent to the other ear, said Lt. Col. MeLisa Gantt, Department of Research Programs director. What the brain interprets is actually the wavering difference between the two tones; known as the binaural beat. This integration of the two brain hemispheres produces an affect that alters the electrical pulsations in the brain, changing the brain wave frequency. The tones are overplayed with music so that the person only hears the music.

“Manufacturers of the technology claim it has the ability to place the brain into a synchronized state where both hemispheres work congruently,” Gantt said. “This allows the listener to enter in to different states of consciousness.”

BBT is not currently used at Belvoir hospital as a complementary treatment. However, the hospital is one of the sites for the first BBT study to be conducted in a military setting. The study is assessing if this technology is able to reduce stress so that one can have better quality sleep as well as an improvement in cardiovascular health.

“Stress is the catalyst to many disease processes and – despite peoples’ best efforts – they can’t seem to turn it off,” Gantt said. “BBT works on the subconscious. Instead of the person trying to master the recurring stressful thoughts, BBT changes the brainwave pattern for them.”

This in turn helps the healing process for all of the things that stress causes like high blood pressure, poor sleep quality, etc.

“CAM promotes optimal health by offering patients many self care modalities that will encourage a lifetime of wellness, ‘building a healthy, vibrant, and resilient nation,’” Ceremuga said. “Here at FBCH, our staff and patients have an optimal healing environment, and through CAM we have the opportunity to build a culture of excellence that can be a model for the Military Health System and the nation.”

July 18 will feature Acupuncture and Acupressure by Maj. Andrew Gallo.

For more information on the Sound Mind Warrior Study, email FBCHSoundMindWarrior@health.mil or call 571-231-4016.