Complementary and Alternative Medicine

You probably have a basic understanding of how modern medicine: people make an annual check-up, take medicine when they are sick, have a cast if you break a bone, and come back as new.

But in recent years other approaches to healing are increasing their popularity. Many of these techniques “alternative” from all over the world and have been used for thousands of years. In essence, what is the alternative medicine and what it does?

What is …

The term “alternative medicine” is used to describe healing treatments – such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or herbal medicine, which are not part of the traditional medical training. In general, we are accustomed to consider the practices of this kind outside of the traditional system, and this is why these techniques have obtained the name of “alternatives.”

The Eastern countries have a long tradition of teaching alternative medicine. But until recently, most Western hospitals never adopted alternative treatments and Western medical schools do not teach.

Patients in Western countries are increasingly receptive to experiment with alternative techniques, and the question in this regard is increasingly growing. As a result, many Western medical schools are starting to teach techniques and theories of this medicine. Even some hospitals and many doctors are supplementing their regular medical care with alternative techniques.

Many patients and health care providers use alternative treatments with conventional therapies, thus giving rise to a process known as complementary medicine.

Both medicines, complementary and alternative, use the same types of remedies for the treatment of a health condition. The difference is that the alternative medicine is often used in place of conventional medical techniques. It should be ‘clear, however, that the complementary medicine is used in addition to conventional medicine, not as a replacement. The field of complementary and alternative medicine is known as CAM for short.
As the CAM differs from conventional medicine?

Conventional medicine (also called “allopathic medicine”) is based on scientific knowledge of the body and uses treatments that have been proven effective through scientific research. Doctors are trained to have a thorough knowledge of the body systems, diseases and their treatments.

The complementary and alternative medicine is based on the belief that a health care provider should treat the whole person in all its aspects-body, mind and spirit. The techniques used in CAM are mostly less invasive than conventional medical practices-in the sense that do not rely on surgery or conventional medications.

Some CAM therapies are supported by scientific evidence. But there are still many questions that need to be resolved through scientific studies. This does not mean that these therapies do not work, it just means that experts have not studied enough to know for sure what they do and how they act on the body.
Why people use CAM?

People often turn to CAM when they have a long-term problem that conventional medicine has not completely healed. For example, someone who has seen a doctor in vain to cure a persistent headaches might try using CAM in addition to current treatments to deal with any symptoms or side effects from conventional treatments.

Many people use complementary and alternative medicine even if they are not sick. Since many people believe that CAM techniques – such as yoga – are able to improve the overall well being, often use alternative medicine to try to prevent illness or to ensure a healthy lifestyle.
Specialty

Just as there are many areas of conventional medicine, CAM also covers many different practices. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), groups CAM practices into four areas:

Biologically based practices, which consist in integrating the normal diet of a person with extra nutrients, herbs, extracts, and certain foods. Anyone who has taken a vitamin or herb, followed a biologically based practice.
Therapy manipulation of the body, focusing on the various systems of the body and its structures. Anyone who has the help of a chiropractor or have you had a massage, was treated with manipulative therapy.
Mind-body interventions, using the connection between mind, body and spirit of a person in order to improve the general welfare. The mind-body techniques include meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.
Therapies based energy, are intended to restore the disorders of natural energy of the body. The energy therapies include practices such as qi-gong and Reiki.

In addition to these four different practices, CAM includes several whole medical systems. These alternative systems are whole medical systems of theory and practice, dating back to ancient practices much more than the conventional medicine we use today in the West. Examples of alternative medical systems include traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine.

The systems of alternative medicine include in their treatments of many different practices referred to above. For example, the practice of traditional Chinese medicine of acupuncture can be combined with herbal medicine (a biologically based practice), and qi-gong (energy therapy). And, again, Ayurveda includes the mind-body therapy, meditation and yoga, along with the biologically based practice of taking specific herbs for health reasons.

Some CAM practices are supported by scientific research, while others have not yet been studied. Sometimes experts have scientific evidence that a CAM practice (such as acupuncture) works, but do not have a clear understanding of why.
Limitations

Although CAM has some proven benefits, as everything has its limits.

The experts have not studied the CAM techniques in sufficient numbers to tell how effective such treatments. Some people may not find it necessary to invest a lot of time or money on treatments that have not been proven effective. The insurance coverage is largely restricted to CAM treatments, so people have to pay out of pocket with no refund.

For some health problems, alternative healing systems alone may not be enough to help a person to heal. Even something as seemingly trivial as an infection may need treatment with medications such as antibiotics. That is why it is always best to consult your doctor if you have a health problem and talk openly about all CAM techniques if you want to try these systems.

Another reason why it is necessary a comparison with their physician on the techniques of CAM is because, in some cases, the CAM practices can actually interfere with conventional medical therapies. For example, some herbal supplements may interfere with certain prescription drugs, such as treatments for diabetes or pills for birth control.

As with modern medicine, CAM treatments that are effective for a problem may not be with all the problems. Some treatments are used only for some problems, so if you want to try an alternative practice for a health reason, make sure that will solve the specific problem.

The doctors are not only trained, but also a kind of license to engage in the practice. This does not always happen in the case of CAM practitioners. Some states provide for some sort of license to some specialists, like acupuncturists and massage therapists, and many are predicting steps in this direction since the CAM practices are growing in popularity.

Finding a good CAM practitioner is not so easy. NCCAM want to ask, however, other health care providers before choosing your specialist care CAM, which ask for a quote oncontro during which informed about the risks and benefits of treatment.

Many people have already used a complementary or alternative practice, like yoga or massage, without even remotely thought that they are CAM therapies. Pursuing therapies such as meditation and breathing can not suffer any damage, although other CAM techniques may have consequences for people with certain diseases. Even the more traditional practices such as yoga can damage a person with a health condition – such as a back problem – if it is not done properly. So you should always consult your doctor before trying any CAM techniques. The doctor will try to guide you on what practices you can safely try, while continuing with the traditional method of treatment.