Americans in increasing numbers are using non-traditional approaches to healthcare. CAM is a general term used for complementary and alternative medicine. These two approaches to health are often seen as interchangeable, but they are different.
Complementary medicine includes those products and healing practices that are used in conjunction with allopathic or traditional medicine. An example might be a cancer patient suffering from unpleasant side effects of traditional chemotherapy. To treat those, which aims to treat an acupuncturist. The two approaches are complementary.
Alternative medicine is different because it is a substitute for allopathic medicine. A cancer patient who declines chemotherapy and instead treat their disease through diet is using alternative medicine. His approach is an alternative to standard Western medicine.
More and more doctors are practicing a third category – integrative medicine. Integrative medicine combines traditional medicine with complementary therapies and alternative medicine both. Integrative medicine practitioners offer their patients the best of all worlds.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) recently conducted a study of data on more than 20,000 adults and nearly 10,000 children and found that approximately 40 percent of adults and 12 percent of children have been treated with some form of complementary and alternative medicine. Women, people aged between 40 and 60, and all adults with higher education and income are the most frequent consumers of non-traditional health care. More and more people are taking advantage of healthy living alternatives like yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and meditation.
NCAAM has identified five main categories of complementary and alternative medicine:
- mind-body medicine. mind-body medicine offers treatments designed to improve mental and emotional state in order to support physical health. Meditation, art and music therapy are examples.
- comprehensive medical systems. This category includes complete systems of medicine that operate outside of allopathic medicine. Some of them date back thousands of years. Examples include Ayurveda, the traditional medicine practiced in India, and traditional Chinese medicine. In the West, homeopathy and naturopathy are comprehensive medical systems.
- handling practices and based on the body. This category includes therapies that are based on physical manipulation of the body that is intended to treat specific conditions and improve health, such as chiropractic and osteopathy.
- The energy medicine. Energy medicine uses energy fields to support healing. Biofield therapies target the energy fields that are believed to surround his body. They include Reiki and qi gong. This category also includes bioelectromagnetic based therapies such as magnet therapy.
- biologically based practices. This category includes biological approaches to health, such as herbs, nutrition, vitamins and minerals and other dietary supplements. The growing interest in this approach has stimulated new research, but many of these practices and products that have not yet been scientifically proven.
If you are considering taking advantage of some of these therapies, do your research and consult health professionals confidence.