Complementary Medicine

Definition


Complementary alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad term of health systems and practices and their associated theories which sometimes combine forces with conventional biomedical therapies to treat illness. CAM treatment strategies are considered to be outside of the dominant health system of a particular society or culture, but boundaries within CAM and between CAM domains and the dominant system are not always sharp and fixed. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines complementary medicine as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.[1] By “conventional medicine” the NCCAM means Western biomedicine. According to Cohen, complementary medicine tend to focus on the whole person whose health depends not only on genetics and biochemistry, but also on physical, emotional, mental, environmental, nutritional, and even spiritual factors.[2] Complementary medicine is often deemed “holistic health care,” which addresses the body, the mind and the human "spirit." As opposed to alternative medicine, complementary medical treatments are utilized alongside Western biomedicine.

History


Western therapies of "irregular medicine" or complementary alternative medicine (CAM) first appeared as a palliative health care movement in the 1700s. As Whorton's essay explains, given the proliferation of erroneous theories of pathology formulated to make sense of all the new information that had been uncovered in anatomy, physiology, and chemistry during the 1600s and 1700s, CAM practitioners discovered their own distinctive therapies and then incorporated them into a theoretical framework that drew on contemporary scientific ideas.[3] CAM called for gentler methods of dealing with the body and refused "regular" medical procedures such as bleeding, purging the intestinal tract and blistering the skin. What eventually came to be called the holistic medical consciousness of the 1970s was born from alternative medical practices and based on experience with patients and common sense instead of being deduced only from rational theory.[4] Politically, the emergence of CAM was an early hotbed of conflict as "irregular" practitioners tried to organize, train, publish and offer medical treatment while "regulars" practiced care keen on establishing an elite class based on mainstream medical education and licensing. Today, allopathic medicine is becoming increasingly open to CAM ideas and even ascribes medical status to practitioners such as naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors and osteopaths.[5] As Eisenberg et al. point out in The Journal of American Medicine (1998): How are CAM therapies evaluated? It is important that the same scientific evaluation which is used to evaluate traditional medical treatments be used to evaluate complementary and alternative therapies. With few exceptions, CAM has not been tested in large clinical trials, (studies that seek to measure the effectiveness of a given treatment in a large group of patients). One of the primary objectives of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is to study the effectiveness of CAM, in the same way that conventional treatments are examined, before they can become part of the standard of care. Today, CAM practices can be grouped into five major categories.

  1. Alternative Medical Systems: These are complete practices that have developed independent of conventional medicine. They include systems that have been practiced for over 2,000 years by over half the world's population, such as Acupuncture and traditional Asian medicine, Ayurveda (practiced in India), Native American, and other native cultures' healing practices. Homeopathic and naturopathic medicine are also examples of complete alternative medical systems, which have emerged over the past few hundred years.
  2. Mind-Body Interventions: These include a variety of practices focused on the mind's capacity to affect the body's function. Examples are meditation, relaxation, guided imagery, dance, music and art therapy, hypnosis, prayer and mental healing.
  3. Biological-Based Therapies: These are natural and biologically based practices and products, such as herbal, special dietary supplements and therapies. Some may overlap with conventional medicine.
  4. Manipulative and Body-Based Methods: These methods use touch, movement and manipulation with the hands as a diagnostic and treatment tool. Osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation, as well as massotherapy are included in this category.
  5. Energy Therapies: These therapies focus on energy fields within the body (biofields) or from other sources (electromagnetic fields). Therapeutic touch and Reiki are examples of biofield therapies, and the use of a TENS unit to treat pain is an example of an electromagnetic-based therapy.[6]

Case Studies


Mind-Body Interventions: Tai Chi
Background
Tai chi is a system of movements and postures rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy and martial arts used to enhance mental and physical health that has become very popular in the West.[7] According to Ernst, a number of different styles and forms were developed from the original 13 postures, which were believed to have been created in the early 12th century. The various forms of tai chi comprise of a series of postures linked by gentle and graceful movements. Tai chi was influenced by Confucian and Buddhist philosophy and is based on the principles of the two opposing life forces, Yin and Yang. Poor health is perceived as an imbalance between Yin (the female, receptive principle) and Yang (the male, creative principle). The alternative movements and postures are thought to stabilize these flowing energies, create inner/outer harmony and emotional balance.

























Energy Therapies: Reiki
Background
Reiki is a Japanese stress and bodily pain reduction technique believed to induce a sense of very deep relaxation in the human body if practiced correctly. The process is administered by the laying of hands which are said to be expert in realigning the primal energies or vital electromagnetical "life forces" trapped within the body (matter). While not a religion, Reiki attempts to promote spiritual awareness, human ethics, and reverence for life.




Alternative Medical Systems: Ayurveda
Background
Ayurveda is the ancient Hindu science of health and medicine which combines nutritional guidance, herbal remedies, exercise therapy, mediation and special rejuvenation techniques to combat human illness and aging. The system is not a religion but like Reiki, it aims to produce a sense of spiritual awareness through techniques and remedies that are said to greatly improve physical health and mental outlook. As with most ancient medical traditions, Ayurveda is deeply rooted in compassion for the sick and respect for all living things.





















Related terms


Integrative medicine, holistic medicine, preventive health care, naturism, natural medicine, non-mainstream healthcare, osteopathic medicine, unconventional medicine, irregular medicine, unorthodox medicine, quackery

Critiques


Traditionally, biomedicine has been particularly critical of complementary and alternative medicines. Some have complained that these types of treatments have little basis in biological mechanisms.[8] Others say that CAM has not been adequately tested for effectiveness and is not evidence-based. Doctors have also been concerned that people have forgone “effective” biomedical treatments for alternative treatments. Some feel that this is detrimental to people’s health, and could become a public health concern. Nonetheless, compared to alternative medicine's outright rejection of biomedicine, complementary or integrative medicine is gaining wider acceptance in Western biomedicine. Typically, however, CAM is perceived by the medical establishment as belonging more to the realm of preventive rather than curative medicine. Consistently reliable findings, and increased international cooperation and shared research are key to reducing the professional skepticism still felt by many in the pharmaco-biomedical model of Western science.

Helpful Resources



Online Articles



Works Cited


  • Cohen, M. H. (2000). Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
  • Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC (1998). Trends in alternative medicine in the United States, 1990-1997, Journal of the American Medical Association 280 (18):1569-75.
  • Ernst, E. (2001). The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidenced- Based Approach. Toronto, Canada: Mosby, IMNA.
  • Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2005). Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Shrine, K. (2001). A critique on complementary and alternative medicine, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 7(2): 145-152.
  • Whorton, J. (2006). History of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In N.G. Cuellar (Ed.), Conversations in comparative and alternative medicine (pp. 2-3). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

References


  1. ^ 2005 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
  2. ^ Cohen, M. H. (2000). Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
  3. ^ Whorton, J. (2006). History of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In N.G. Cuellar (Ed.), Conversations in comparative and alternative medicine (pp. 2-3). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
  4. ^ Whorton, J. (2006). History of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In N.G. Cuellar (Ed.), Conversations in comparative and alternative medicine (pp. 2-3). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
  5. ^ Whorton, J. (2006). History of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In N.G. Cuellar (Ed.), Conversations in comparative and alternative medicine (pp. 2-3). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
  6. ^ Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC (1998), Trends in alternative medicine in the united states, 1990-1097, Journal of the American Medical Association, 280 (18), 1569-75.
  7. ^ Ernst, E. (2001). The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidenced- Based Approach. Toronto, Canada: Mosby, IMNA.
  8. ^ Shrine, K. (2001), A critique on complementary and alternative medicine, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 7(2): 145-152.