Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, or CAM, is defined as medical practices that fall outside of the scope of conventional Western medicine and are not part of standard medical care. While there are many different complementary and alternative medical practices in use today, the underlying belief of most CAM is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The body is a resilient instrument, seeking to heal itself when given the proper tools and kept in good condition.
Complementary and alternative medicine therapies are based on helping the individual find balance so that an emotional or physical disorder doesn’t become a chronic issue. Should issues become chronic, CAM therapies offer a more natural, holistic approach to healing.
Complementary medicine refers to practices that are meant to supplement treatment offered by conventional medical practitioners. Aromatherapy is an example of a complementary medical modality. It is not a primary form of treatment, but it may be used to lessen the symptoms associated with a patient’s illness.
Alternative medicine are used in place of conventional treatment. For example, a depressed patient may decide to manage their illness using diet therapy in place of traditional treatments such as medication.
Integrative medicine combines the use of conventional medicine with CAM modalities. For example, some doctors have integrated the use of acupuncture into their traditional practices, as it has become more accepted by the medical establishment.
According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrated Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Heath, the use of most CAM therapies is supported by some scientific as well as historical evidence, but questions remain as to their overall effectiveness. As more research is conducted, therapeutic regimens that were once considered complementary or alternative have been brought into the fold of mainstream conventional medicine. An example would be cognitive-behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy that was once considered an alternative practice and has now become one of the most widely used therapeutic approaches in mental health. Yoga, once considered a simple method of stretching the muscles, is being explored as a way to alleviate everything from arthritis, anxiety, weight gain, and depression. Acupuncture has been found to be effective for those seeking relief from addictions and infertility. As Westerners seek more natural lifestyles, the world of complementary and alternative medicine is opening up a wealth of options for relief from disease and disorder.