The past few decades have seen complementary and alternative medicine move from the fringes to the mainstream. The latest data from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH,) the research center of the US National Institutes of Health, show that in 2012, 33.2% of adults and 11.6% of children had used CAM treatment in the past 12 months. Another study found that women were five times more likely to use mind-body approaches and food supplements than men.
In other parts of the globe, however, traditional medicine is legally recognized by the governments of their countries and has been practiced for thousands of years. Ayurveda is the most common system used in India and 75% of patients in hospital admissions are receiving ayurvedic therapy. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is popular in its country, comprising half of all medicines purchased, as well as in Australia and other Asian countries. It is safe to say that the western world is perhaps the most resistant to the use of CAM for treating medical conditions and maintaining health and wellness.
Complementary and alternative medicine is a broad realm of healing processes that include products, modalities, knowledge, and beliefs dating back centuries. These are generally used in addition to conventional western medicine, although purists use them as a substitute for conventional treatment. CAM products and methods include food and vitamin supplements, herbal dietary supplements, natural products, and mind and body approaches, such as aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture, visualization, and chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation.
Specific complementary modalities have their own distinct benefits. Acupuncture helps to relieve headaches and migraines, low back pain, knee arthritis, and vomiting due to cancer treatment. Yoga relaxes the mind and body by making the muscles more flexible, improving circulation, calming the mind, and producing a general feeling of wellbeing. It relieves stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. Chiropractic medicine aligns the spine with the rest of the body, thereby easing the pain in the shoulders, neck, and lower back.
The increasing acceptance of complementary medicine products and practices has helped in treating several medical conditions, among them cancers. Patients undergo behavioral changes that help them cope better with the disease; the pain and discomfort are also alleviated. But many doctors still do not use or promote this concept. They will only use therapies that are anchored on evidence and scientific research. Aside from managing their patients using conventional medicine, they can also avoid lawsuits should negative consequences arise and the patient or their families allege that complementary products and techniques brought them about. A Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer says a health professional may be charged with criminal culpability if it is proven that he or she exposed his patient to risky therapies. Without legal policies in place, CAM practice may belong to that category.
Detractors of the practice of complementary and alternative medicine claim it is quackery, harmful, and expensive with no proven benefits. Unlike healthy lifestyles and practices that only require behavior modification and discipline, anti-CAM health practitioners say it makes use of deceit to brainwash people into believing that its products will cure their illness or enhance their health and wellbeing.
Ultimately, people wanting to try or use CAM medicine and methods are better off consulting their physician before undergoing such treatments. Herbal, animal, or mineral-based supplements may interact with their current medication and produce adverse reactions or results. Most mind and body techniques are effective for bringing about a sense of peace and calm and a positive outlook that will have a beneficial impact on the patient’s health. Most doctors are open to adding CAM to their therapeutic regimen for as long as they deem it safe for the patients.
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Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta. “Grand Velas – Yoga and Pilates.” Photo. https://www.flickr.com/photos/grandvelasresort/1131688192. 08 Aug. 2000. 15 Feb 2015
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