What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

In recent years there has been an ever-increasing number of people in our culture who are seeking treatment for their ills from Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) healthcare professionals. If not covered by their health insurance policies, there is a greater willingness to pay out of pocket for these services.

CAM generally refers to practices that aren’t integral parts of conventional medicine. Though the two terms, Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine are often used together, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Complementary treatments are used together or along with treatments prescribed by M.D.’s, such as using Yoga, TaiQi or QiGong, in addition to prescription drugs for anxiety. Alternative treatments are generally thought of as being used instead of conventional methods, an example would be seeking treatments from a Homeopath Naturopath or an Acupuncturist.

One basic CAM philosophy is, “your body heals itself”. CAM practitioners view the role they play as that of a facilitator. To them the body does the healing work and treatments are done to encourage your natural healing processes. Another basic tenet is, “prevention is the key”. Emphasis is on preventive healthcare instead of disease care. Many CAM practitioners may encourage you to seek treatments prior to getting sick and to identify habits and lifestyle changes that are designed to help you keep healthy. Treatments are for health and longevity. A third philosophical tenet is “empowerment through information and education”. Many CAM practitioners view themselves as teachers, mentors or coaches who offer guidance to identify your role and personal responsibilities in maintaining health and wellness – its proactive medicine.