The primary focus of medical care is to provide the most appropriate care to patients given their presenting conditions and the availability of resources at the physicians’ disposal. Modern medical practices have evolved through the years due to an increasing body of knowledge made possible through research, worldwide collaboration and information-sharing processes. Regardless of their field of specializations, many doctors are open to studying and applying treatment protocols that may be outside the standard practices of western medicine. Some of these practices may complement existing protocols while others may offer alternative treatment pathways.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies
Medical professionals aim to deliver the highest quality of care to achieve the best outcomes for their patients. To this end, health pros take their oath seriously, striving for positive doctor-patient encounters for both well and ill visits. While mainstream medical practices typically define the treatment plans for all patients, there has been a steady movement toward integrating complementary and alternative medicine therapies, or CAM, with conventional practices.
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 40 percent of adult patients already integrate CAM therapies as part of their lifestyle choices, and doctors are certainly paying attention to the impact of CAM practices on their patients’ health and quality of life. The integrated approach may be associated with other terms such as whole medical systems, mind-body medicine, biologically based practices, manipulative and body-based practices and energy medicine. These classifications are the from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, but it must be emphasized that comparisons may not always be clear-cut as the therapies may have overlapping elements, and practices may fall under more than one category.
Overview of CAM Therapies
Mainstream medicine is evidence-based and highly regulated under the auspices of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies associated with the National Institutes of Health. CAM therapies may be regulated under a different set of guidelines and monitoring agencies.
Whole Medical Systems
This category refers to a system or a collection of medical remedies and treatments focused on a specific philosophy or a belief system such as the presence of internal energy in the body or the relationship of the human body to nature.
- Traditional or Ancient Healing Practices
- The healing arts have been practiced in one form or another in ancient cultures. Many of these procedures are based on knowledge of anatomy and physiology coupled with insights on medicinal properties of herbs and other available materials.
- The practice of Naturopathy involves using noninvasive treatments to encourage the body to heal itself from trauma and symptoms of various diseases. Techniques include acupuncture, massage, exercise, ingestion of herbal remedies and lifestyle counseling.
- This is a system that attempts to trigger the body’s self-healing response by dosing with small amounts of natural substances known to have beneficial properties.
For optimum health, it makes sense to make sure that the mind and the body are in harmony. Mind-body techniques tap the connection between these two systems to encourage relaxation and positivity that can help conventional medical therapies to be effective. These techniques include:
- Art therapies
- Other relaxation therapies
Body Manipulation Techniques
As the name suggests, human touch is used to apply pressure and manipulate a specific body part or the entire body. Targeted areas may be directly affected by a disorder, or that area may be connected to a body system affected by ill health. These techniques include:
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Osteopathic manipulation
Practices Based on Natural Supplementation
Western medicine has borrowed and adopted many medical remedies from traditional eastern practices. These are remedies based on natural ingredients formulated into teas, syrups, tablets or similar formats. Herbs such as ginseng, Echinacea and gingko are among the ingredients that are now part of mainstream dietary supplements.
Integrating Complementary Medicine Techniques with Conventional Practices
Conventional medicine is based on practices that have been found safe and effective through research and stringent trials and testing. These tests are typically backed by pharmaceutical companies, university or hospital-based research efforts and other corporate support. Remedies considered as complementary or alternative may lack solid research backing primarily because large and extended trials are expensive. However, many complementary practices have become part of mainstream medicine due to their popularity and the absence of any reports of harmful effects.
Some complementary practices are easily integrated into a treatment plan based on conventional medicine practices. Techniques such as meditation, massage and relaxation therapies can be integrated into your plan of care or as part of lifestyle changes for optimum health. In general, it is best to let your health care provider know about any health and lifestyle choices you have made or plan to make to limit the potential for unintended reactions. Be wary of jumping on trending alternative practices without researching first or consulting a health care professional because treatment plans are customized to individual needs and conditions.