What Complementary Medicine Is and How Effective It Is

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It is called complementary medicine because it works along with traditional medicine techniques.  It is not meant to substitute for it. The difference between it and alternative medicine is that alternative medicine is just that–an alternative and replacement for traditional medicine.  However, they both share many methods of non-traditional healing practices.

There are now doctoral degrees available in complementary medicine programs.  Student can expect to learn many non-traditional methods of healing and health care.  These method may be ancient or even modern practices of the East (there is a rising popularity in this country for traditional Chinese medicine which is also used).  They include healing techniques such as energy medicine, herbal medicine, mind-body practices, and homeopathy.  

Alternative and complimentary medicine practitioners share some common healing guidelines or beliefs.  These include:

* The best way to stay healthy is to take preventative steps.
* The facilitator merely helps the patient heal itself, a power the mind-body connection has.  They merely
encourage this marvelous process.
* Learning goes hand-in-hand with healing.  Practitioners frequently see themselves as teachers and mentors
who offer only guidance that leads towards the body’s natural healing properties.
* There is a common emphasis on holistic care.  The patient is treated as a whole person.  The physical health,
mental well-being, relationships and spiritual needs are interconnected and must all be addressed in healing.

To break down the many therapies that are used, it is helpful to use the categories of classification used by the National Institutes of Health.  The broad categories are:

*Ayurveda – originating in India more than 5,000 years ago, it incorporates practices which include yoga,meditation, massage, diet and herbs.

*Homeopathy – uses minute doses of substances that cause the body to respond in a self-healing manner.

*Naturopathy – focuses on noninvasive treatments so the body can heal itself.

Naturopaths use many methods of healing including massage, acupuncture, herbal medicine, exercise and counseling.
*Ancient medicines – these treatments are Chinese, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Tibetan.

Mind-body connections must be harmony for there to be healing.  Techniques to facilitate this include:

*Art therapies including poetry, music and dance

Both disciplines use dietary supplements and herbal remedies.

Complementary medicine facilitators understand the importance of human touch in healing.  Manipulation and touch are frequently used in several practices which include chiropractic  and spinal manipulation, massage, osteopathy, craniosacral therapy and acupressure.

Energy therapies are used to unblock or balance  the invisible energy forces that need to flow through the body unobstruted.  This is done in different ways, acupuncture being one.  Other energy therapies include: therapeutic touch, Reiki; magnet, polarity and light therapies.

The following list is meant to be more all inclusive of all that complimentary medicine may use to help heal patients, though some have already been briefly noted:

* acupuncture,
* Alexander technique,
* aromatherapy,
* Ayurveda (Ayurvedic medicine),
* biofeedback,
* chiropractic medicine,
* diet therapy,
* herbalism,
* holistic nursing,
* homeopathy,
* hypnosis,
* massage therapy,
* meditation,
* naturopathy,
* nutritional therapy,
* osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT),
* Qi gong (internal and external Qiging),
* reflexology,
* Reiki,
* spiritual healing,
* Tai Chi,
* traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and
* yoga.

Is Complementary Medicine Effective

As many as 61% of cancer survivors use complementary techniques according to the American Cancer Society.  It is a well-known fact that it is popular with patients.  It is known that they help improve the quality of life and provide self-empowerment to persons who may have once felt like victims to their disease.

Other than anecdotal knowledge, there has been a scarcity of scientific data on Complementary Medicine.  Now, however, researchers supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) are conducting well-designed studies of some complementary techniques.


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