The idea of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) includes therapies and treatments that are instituted outside the realm of mainstream medicine. ‘Complementary’ works in conjunction with conventional medicine and ‘alternative’ is used instead of mainstream medical modalities. Many of these treatments have been used for thousands of years by cultures around the globe and have become more popular in the Western world as patients seek replacements from standard drug treatments.
Making use of healing products and practices that work with traditional medicine is known as ‘complementary’. An example might be a cancer patient that is receiving chemotherapy and is experiencing vomiting and nausea. A physician may recommend that the patient undergo acupuncture therapy to offset the physical reactions of the treatment. Alternative medicine is one that is used instead of the standard medical treatment. An example of this might be the same cancer patient that chooses to relinquish chemotherapy treatments and instead opt for in-depth dietary changes.
While many define CAM as just two therapies, there is actually a third which is known as integrative medicine. This form of treatment draws from the expertise and success of complementary, alternative and then combines with mainstream medicine. An example of this might be a patient that is taking a high regiment of medications and receives consultations and recommendations on medicinal interactions and medication depletions with the addition of supplementation to offset the depletions.
In the last number of years mainstream medicine has adopted the concept of complementary and integrative but remains skeptical of the alternative choices. The reasoning behind this is the fact that very few scientific studies are being funded for alternative therapies. One of the ideas is that alternative therapies undermine the bigger businesses that have invested in standard treatments such as the pharmaceutical companies.
NCCAM (the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) released the results of a survey of 20,000 adults and 10,000 children. The information showed that nearing forty percent of adults and twelve percent of children make use of some form of CAM. The most popular forms included meditation, acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy.
There are five main categories of CAM that are recognized by NCCAM: mind-body medicine, which focuses on the ways that the emotional and mental status affects and interacts with body function. Whole medical systems such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy and Ayurveda. Manipulative and body-based practices, which relies on the physical manipulation of specific areas of the body for health such as osteopathy and chiropractic. Energy medicine is an alternative medicine form that makes use of energy fields for the promotion of healing. This can include qi gong and Reiki. Biologically based practices, with a focus on the use of nutrition, herbs, dietary supplements and vitamins for whole body health.
Prior to instituting any CAM treatment, always consult with your primary care physician to ensure that your medical and physical condition can tolerate the therapy techniques that you are interested in pursuing.