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Complementary medicine

See also: Alternative medicine and Conventional medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine

NCCAM classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Biologically Based Therapy
  3. Manipulative and body-based methods
  4. Energy Therapy
See also
Complementary Medicine
This article is part of the CAM series of articles.
CAM Article Index

The term Complementary medicine refers to alternative medicine treatments used in addition (complementary) to conventional medicine prescribed by a physician.[1]

The expressions complementary medicine and alternative medicine are not used to describe different methods, only to describe the different settings in which the same alternative methods are often used. The term complementary medicine was widely adopted to describe systems of health care and individual therapies that people used as adjuncts to their conventional health care.[2][3] [4] "The term 'complementary' has come into regular usage in the last 15 years,[5] commonly understood as complementing conventional medicine. Practitioners often label complementary medicine as such because they believe that it complements more of the needs of the patient thanconventional medicine.[6][7]


Definitions and descriptions

Complementary medicine does not use alternative medicine as a replacement for conventional care.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) says that "complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy therapy in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees is inhaled in an attempt to promote health and well-being and to help lessen a patient's discomfort following surgery. "[8]

"The term 'complementary' seems to be most often used to refer to the whole range of therapies that are not Western biomedicine, but it is sometimes also used to refer to a subset of these therapies. When used in this more specific form, 'complementary' is sometimes used solely to refer to therapies that can be used to supplement Western biomedical treatment, such as aromatherapy and hypnotherapy."[7]

"'Both alternative and complementary types of medicine are described by the term "non-conventional". This is not an exclusionary term and illustrates the level of acceptance of these methods by the medical community. Complementary medicine is defined as those techniques which are used while the patient is using conventional ones. These include methods such as chiropractic and osteopathy. Alternative medicine includes techniques which are used to the exclusion of conventional medicine. These methods have been specified as incompatible with conventional practice (i.e. certain types of herbal remedies)."[9]

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines complementary medicine as "medical therapy that falls beyond the scope of scientific medicine but may be used alongside it, e.g. acupuncture and osteopathy.[10]

The Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field says "what are considered complementary or alternative practices in one country may be considered conventional medical practices in another. Therefore, our definition is broad and general: complementary medicine includes all such practices and ideas which are outside the domain of conventional medicine in several countries and defined by its users as preventing or treating illness, or promoting health and well being (1). These practices complement mainstream medicine by 1) contributing to a common whole, 2) satisfying a demand not met by conventional practices, and 3) diversifying the conceptual framework of medicine."[11]

In defining complementary medicine in the UK, the House of Lords Select Committee determined that the following therapies were the most often used to complement conventional medicine:[12][7] Alexander technique, Aromatherapy, Bach and other flower remedies, Body work therapies including massage, Counselling stress therapies, hypnotherapy, Meditation, Reflexology, Shiatsu, Maharishi Ayurvedic medicine, Nutritional medicine, and Yoga.

As a form of mind-body interventions

The non-pharmacologic interventions of complementary medicine can employ mind-body interventions designed to "reduce pain and concomitant mood disturbance and increase quality of life."[13] Physicians who practice complementary medicine usually discuss and advise patients as to available complementary therapies. Patients often express interest in mind-body complementary therapies because they offer a non-drug approach to treating some health conditions.[14] Some mind-body techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, were once considered complementary medicine, but are now a part of conventional medicine in the United States.[15]

Used in palliative care

Complementary therapies are often used in palliative care or by practitioners attempting to manage chronic pain in patients. Complementary medicine is considered more acceptable in the interdisciplinary approach used in palliative care than in other areas of medicine. "From its early experiences of care for the dying, palliative care took for granted the necessity of placing patient values and lifestyle habits at the core of any design and delivery of quality care at the end of life. If the patient desired complementary therapies, and as long as such treatments provided additional support and did not endanger the patient, they were considered acceptable."[16]

"Complementary medicine treatments used for pain include: acupuncture, low-level laser therapy, meditation, aroma therapy, Chinese medicine, dance therapy, music therapy, massage, herbalism, therapeutic touch, yoga, osteopathy, chiropractic treatments, naturopathy, and homeopathy."[17]

Complementary medicine is often used alongside conventional treatment

A 1997 survey found that 13.7% of respondents in the United States had sought the services of both a medical doctor and an alternative medicine practitioner. The same survey found that 96% of respondents who sought the services of an alternative medicine practitioner also sought the services of a medical doctor in the past 12 months. Medical doctors are often not aware of their patient's complementary treatment as 38.5% of the patients alternative therapies were discussed with their medical doctor.[18] This survey illustrates that the majority of alternative medicine use takes place alongside conventional practice and may thus be considered complementary. Physicians may be partially protected from disciplinary action for prescribing complementary medicine in some jurisdictions for unprofessional conduct or failure to practice medicine in an acceptable manner if board specific practice requirements are satisfied and the therapies utilized do not present "a safety risk for the patient that is unreasonably greater that the conventional treatment for the patient's medical condition." (See [19] the state of Texas, as an example.)

See also

Further reading

  • Bausell, R. Barker (2007), , Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-531368-0
  • List of Commonly Used Complementary Therapies with Descriptions, Institute for Complementary Medicine.
  • Zollman C, Vickers A. ABC of complementary medicine. Users and practitioners of complementary medicine. BMJ. 1999 Sep 25;319(7213):836-8. Review PMID: 10496832 [Full Text]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Complementary_medicine". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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