- Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
- History of CAM
- How Popular Are CAM Approaches?
- Find a Therapist
- Integrating CAM into Therapy
- Integrative Health Psychology
- How Can Integrative Approaches Help?
- Criticisms and Limitations of CAM
- Licensure of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners | Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association
- Licensing of Allied Health Professionals and Complementary Care Providers
- The Different Kinds of Licensure
- Licensure as Opposed to Certification, Accreditation, and Credentialing
- Why Health Care Licensure Matters
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Get the Facts on CAM
- What is alternative medicine?
- What are complementary and alternative medicine therapies?
- Questions to ask your doctor when considering complimentary or alternative medicine therapies
- Choosing a CAM practitioner 1
- U.S. list of Integrative Health Centers
- Are there really benefits to Alternative & Complementary Medicine?
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to the array of therapies that extend beyond conventional Western medical treatments.
The term complementary describes treatments used in conjunction with standard care, and the term alternative relates to less conventional methods of treatment.
In recent years, the term “integrative health” has been used to describe the incorporation of evidence-based CAM therapies into conventional treatments for the purpose of enhancing overall health.
People seeking treatment for a range of mental health concerns may find some complementary or alternative treatment approaches to be helpful when these treatments are undertaken with the knowledge and support of a mental or medical health professional.
History of CAM
The branch of medical care referred to as complementary and alternative medicine has been in practice in some parts of the world, such as China and India and among the numerous tribes of the indigenous American peoples, for hundreds of years.
These traditional techniques may not necessarily be considered “complementary” or “alternative.” Before the 19th century, medicine was considered a supplemental field, and many techniques now viewed as complementary or alternative were mainstream at that time.
Formal hospitals were rare, and most doctors practiced medicine part-time while satisfying other roles judge, magistrate, farmer, or shop owner.
At the start of the 19th century, conventional medicine began to take form, and over the course of the next several decades, the medical field grew rapidly.
Nonetheless, conventional medicine had its critics, who often claimed it to be expensive, risky, and imprecise.
Some of these critics formed the Popular Health Movement (PHM), which flourished during the 1830s and 1840s and was devoted to the preservation of herbal remedies, nutrition, exercise, self-healing, and other practice methods of midwives and lay practitioners.
The lasting impact the Popular Health Movement had on the medical field is still in effect today.
In 1992, the National Institute of Health established the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), which was renamed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in 1998 and is now known as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Even today, CAM therapies continue to grow in popularity. National surveys show nearly 69% of Americans use at least one form of CAM treatment in any given year.
“Integrative medicine,” a term recently adopted by a number of government and educational organizations, is intended to emphasize the use of multiple therapy and treatment approaches in the achievement of optimal mind-body wellness and health, rather than suggest alternative approaches be used in the place of conventional medical treatments.
How Popular Are CAM Approaches?
A 2007 national survey of Americans showed that approximately 38% of adults and 12% of children reportedly use CAM. This amounts to approximately $33.9 billion in annual out-of-pocket expenses.
Neither the use of vitamin or mineral supplements nor the use of prayer for health reasons were included in these figures, though both numbers have been included in CAM expenditure figures in the past.
Additionally, although the above statistics represent overall CAM use and expenditures, people with diagnosed medical or mental health concerns tend to use CAM at higher rates than the general population.
Find a Therapist
Among the most widely used CAM therapies are manipulative therapies (such as chiropractic and massage therapy) for back pain, yoga and other forms of exercise, and acupuncture. Dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbal medicines, are also fairly common. Research indicates about half of all American adults take one or more dietary supplements.
Integrating CAM into Therapy
The field of psychology consistently evolves and expands as new research leads to the development of new ideas regarding not only care and treatment but also the concepts of general health and well-being.
Many individuals take a holistic approach to healing and wellness and, as part of this approach, incorporate techniques outside the fields of medical and mental health.
These techniques, which may be movement-based, biological, or energy-based, include treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, Reiki, biofeedback, nutritional therapies, and meditation. Some have been proven to have a positive effect on mental and/or physical health, while others are not yet supported by scientific evidence.
Because many of these treatments are not evidence-based, some people may fear criticism from health care professionals and be reluctant to tell physicians or therapists about any complementary or alternative treatments they are utilizing. However, not all CAM therapies are a good fit for every individual.
Some have little evidence of benefit and may have the potential to harm. It is thus recommended that therapists encourage those in treatment to talk about any CAM use, withfering critique or judgment, in order to obtain a clear picture of treatment progress.
Doing so can both help strengthen the therapeutic relationship by allowing the person in treatment to feel a greater sense of trust and provide an opening for a conversation about the potential risks and benefits of any complementary or alternative approach.
When all members of an individual's health care team know about all approaches being used, they may be able to help those in treatment avoid potentially harmful drug or therapy interactions.
Therapists do not typically prescribe oral intake therapies, such as herbal or vitamin supplementation, but some of those in treatment may choose to use these in order to help address mood issues or other concerns. Discussing the use of these supplements is considered by medical professionals to be as important as disclosing the use of prescribed medications and other mind/body-altering substances.
A thoughtful, collaborative discussion of CAM therapies can potentially enrich the therapy experience for those who see these approaches as additional tools for emotional and physical healing.
Therapists can introduce those in treatment to complementary approaches such as meditation or relaxation. Doctors can suggest chiropractic care or massage therapy.
A person who has had success with a particular CAM approach can share this information with a provider, in the interest of increasing knowledge about CAM.
Integrative Health Psychology
The label “integrative health psychology” can help clarify the emphasis on enhancing overall health (mental and physical) via psychotherapy and complementary/alternative therapies. The term “integrative” as it relates to psychotherapy can be characterized as:
- Drawing upon more than one psychotherapy model when working with people in therapy
- Collaborating with all members of the health care team, when appropriate (including medical professionals, CAM practitioners, and any other health care providers)
- Including complementary/alternative approaches into the psychotherapy process, when indicated
The above descriptors of integrative health psychology are not necessarily new ways of looking at mental health care. Mind-body approaches, such as guided imagery, hypnotherapy, meditation, and relaxation training have long been used by many to help manage mood, improve feelings of physical energy, and foster a general sense of well-being.
Techniques such as these can easily be incorporated into talk therapy. A growing number of therapists already do so with good results.
Mindfulness training, for example, was introduced as a practice outside of the realm of psychotherapy and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of several mental health issues.
These approaches may be viewed as stand-alone therapies or treatment techniques that can be integrated into traditional psychotherapy.
How Can Integrative Approaches Help?
Unconventional approaches have been shown to have benefit for some individuals in the treatment of a number of mental health concerns, especially when used in addition to standard treatment or as part of a combined treatment plan.
Caution is generally advised when choosing an alternative treatment approach, as the effects of many treatments have not been extensively studied or regulated and/or may be less well-known. However, some treatments are widely utilized and are known to be helpful as part of treatment.
It is recommended that any alternative or complementary approach be first discussed with primary care providers.
Meditation-based approaches, for example, have been proven to have a largely positive impact, with few to no negative side effects.
Meditation-based approaches have been proven to have a largely positive impact, with few to no negative side effects.
Studies have shown meditation can be helpful in the treatment of insomnia and may potentially be helpful in reducing risk for self-harm and suicidal thoughts in adolescents.
Research has shown yoga, a meditation-based practice, may serve to reduce stress for many and can also be helpful in relieving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and possibly schizophrenia.
Yoga has become fairly popular in the United States in recent years. According to national survey estimates, more than 7% of adults tried yoga at least once, and almost 4% had practiced yoga within the last year.
Multiple studies have shown yoga may contribute to an improved mood and improved quality of life.
Acupuncture, a form of traditional alternative medicine, may benefit in the treatment of chronic pain, according to research.
Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as fish oil, may help address mood concerns and depression. Some also believe fish oil helps enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Research has shown that young adults who begin taking omega-3 fatty acids after experiencing their first psychotic episode may be less ly to develop a more serious condition.
Folate, otherwise known as folic acid and vitamin B9, may also be used to supplement traditional mental health treatment for people with depression and schizophrenia. One specific form of folate, I-methylfolate, has been approved for this use by the FDA.
Other CAM treatments people report benefit from include, but are not limited to:
Criticisms and Limitations of CAM
Although a significant amount of research supports the safe and effective use of a number CAM therapies, people choosing to use a complementary or alternative approach may wish to seek the advice of their primary care provider and/or therapist and seek out certified, trained professionals who have received their training from an accredited institution.
Supportive evidence is lacking in the case of many CAM approaches. In addition to research challenges, some safety concerns regarding CAM do exist.
- The application of CAM therapies in lieu of proven treatment in the case of life-threatening illness can put people at risk.
- The use of herbal supplements not backed by research or approved by the FDA can be dangerous. People may experience harmful drug interactions or ingest toxic or contaminated ingredients.
- Manipulation of the body can increase the risk of harm when the proper skill, knowledge, or training is not guaranteed.
While more research supporting the integration of alternative and complementary approaches may provide support for these treatments, controlled studies are often difficult to facilitate, due to the unique types of treatment that CAM encompasses.
It can be challenging to apply conventional expectations of research to therapies that are unconventional.
Further, due to the nature of CAM, the placebo effect that often negates efficacy in traditional research studies may be viewed as a self-healing procedure and thus provide evidence that a CAM therapy is effective.
- Complementary & alternative medicine for mental health. (2016, April 8). Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/sites/default/files/MHA_CAM.pdf
- Complementary health approaches. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Complementary-Health-Approaches
- Gritz, J. R. (2015, June 25). The evolution of alternative medicine. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/the-evolution-of-alternative-medicine/396458
- Mindfulness meditation may benefit people with chronic insomnia. (2014, September 1). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/090114
- Mindfulness meditation may reduce risk of suicidal thoughts in middle schoolers. (2014, April 27). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/071514
- National center for complementary and integrative health. (2016, March 17). Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/what-we-do/nih-almanac/national-center-complementary-integrative-health-nccih
- National survey reveals use of mind and body practices, shifts in use of natural products. (2015, February 10). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/0021015
- Novella, S. (2015). Overview of complementary and alternative medicine. Retrieved from http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/special-subjects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/overview-of-complementary-and-alternative-medicine
- Types of complementary and alternative medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://m.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/complementary_and_alternative_medicine/types_of_complementary_and_alternative_medicine_85,P00189
- What is integrative health and medicine? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://aihm.org/about/what-is-integrative-medicine
- Yoga for anxiety and depression. (2009). Harvard Mental Health Letter. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
Licensure of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners | Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association
For over 120 years, the Supreme Court has upheld the principle that states may regulate the practice of medicine and determine what is and is not lawful . In Dent v.
West Virginia, the State of West Virginia refused a license to Frank Dent, a member of the “eclectic” sect of physicians who incorporated botanical remedies into medicine.
Dent had graduated from the American Medical Eclectic College of Cincinnati, but could not establish that he had attended a medical college recognized by West Virginia, passed a designated examination, or practiced in West Virginia for 10 years.
Dent argued that, by refusing him a license, West Virginia deprived him of due process of law.
The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that “the power of the State to provide for the general welfare of its people authorizes it to prescribe all such regulations as in its judgment will secure or tend to secure them against the consequences of ignorance and incapacity, as well as of deception and fraud” .
Around the time of Dent, the states began enacting medical licensing statutes.
Today, all states define the “practice of medicine,” in part, by using such words as diagnosis, treatment, prevention, cure, and prescribe, in connection with disease, injury, and mental or physical condition . State law came to designate the practice of medicine without a license as a crime.
Subsequent cases relied on the Dent holding to interpret the medical licensing statutes and uphold prosecutions against a variety of complementary and alternative medicine (“CAM”) practitioners. For example, in People v.
Amber, an acupuncturist argued that the statutory prohibition on unlicensed “practice of medicine” referred only to “Western allopathic medicine” and did not encompass systems such as Chinese acupuncture, which differs in its “philosophy, practice and technique” .
The court disagreed, holding that any “‘sizing up’ or a comprehending of the physical or mental status of a patient” constitutes diagnosis, which is part of the practice of medicine . Similarly, other cases involved prosecutions of practitioners of modalities such as hands-on healing , iridology , and homeopathy .
In each case, courts interpreted statutory terms such as “diagnosis” and “treatment” broadly. Courts have also resisted constitutional challenges to health care licensure on a variety of fronts, including challenges free exercise and due process limitations .
Licensing of Allied Health Professionals and Complementary Care Providers
Allied health providers, such as dentists, psychologists, and nurses, have their own distinct licensing statutes.
The key difference is that medical licensure, known as “unlimited” licensure, grants physicians broad leeway to diagnose and treat disease, whereas licensure for allied health professionals, known as “limited” licensure, carves out a narrower scope of practice . Exceeding that designated scope of practice is considered the unlawful practice of “medicine.”
In response to the prosecution of CAM practitioners for unlicensed medical practice, efforts arose to garner statutory licensing for different CAM professional groups. Presently, chiropractors are licensed in every state; acupuncturists and massage therapists, in over 40 states; and naturopathic physicians, in at least 15 .
allied health professionals, CAM practitioners have limited licensure and a designated scope of practice.
For example, chiropractors can manipulate the spine and provide certain ancillary therapies but may not diagnose and treat disease or otherwise practice “medicine;” massage therapists may deal with emotional content that arises during bodywork, but may not practice “psychology.” The legal boundaries of scope of practice vary and are sometimes difficult to ascertain .
The Different Kinds of Licensure
There are several different kinds of licensure. Under mandatory licensure, an individual cannot practice without a state license. For example, an individual may not practice “medicine” unless licensed as a physician.
With title licensure, the state requires an individual to meet specified requirements in order to use a particular professional title. Some states use title licensure for the practice of psychology or counseling.
Registrationinvolves registering a practice and disclosing information about training and experience to a state consumer protection agency.
Typically, mandatory and title licensure require much higher standards than simple registration.
For example, chiropractic licensure typically requires 4,200 hours of education, including basic medical sciences and clinical experience, and passage of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) written exam .
The terminology can get confusing, however, because some boards granting title licensure use the term “registration”—for example, the Massachusetts medical licensing board calls itself the “Board of Registration in Medicine.”
States also use exemptions to licensure as a mechanism to authorize health care practices.
For example, in response to the proliferation of interstate electronic communications among clinicians, some states have elected (in lieu of explicit telemedicine statutes) to carve out exemptions from state licensing laws to provide that out-of-state physicians who periodically consult with in-state physicians about in-state patients are not considered to be practicing “medicine” within the state . Similarly, some states exempt practices such as reflexology from medical and massage therapy licensing laws .
One interesting variation is a California statute authorizing health care practices by nonlicensed health care professionals, so long as they do not practice “medicine,” make appropriate disclosures to consumers, provide appropriate informed consent, and meet other specified requirements .
Licensure as Opposed to Certification, Accreditation, and Credentialing
It is important to distinguish licensure from related concepts such as certification, accreditation, and credentialing. Licensure refers to specific review and approval (and ongoing oversight) by the state of an individual’s right to a license.
By contrast, certification ordinarily refers to a review process by a third-party professional organization, typically involving the satisfaction of defined criteria, such as completion of a particular training program.
Certification can be either a prerequisite for licensure or, in some cases, an alternative. For example, many states require acupuncturists to be certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
Professional certifications, however, do not always have licensing implications; states may, for example, require a practitioner to be certified without imposing a requirement of licensure.
Accreditation refers to the application of uniform standards to the educational organizations and programs that train people for certification or licensure.
Often, the standards for licensure include a requirement of graduation from one of a limited number of specified accredited programs. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE), for example, has authorized the Council on Chiropractic Education to accredit chiropractic colleges.
Similarly, the DOE has authorized the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to accredit acupuncture programs.
Credentialing refers to efforts by organizations to ascertain the licensure and other qualifications or credentials of their health care practitioners.
Typically, aspiring members of a credentialing organization submit applications setting forth their qualifications for review and approval of their credentials.
Some states require self-governing bodies to perform peer review and credentialing functions within health care organizations.
Why Health Care Licensure Matters
From the state’s perspective, health care licensure protects patients from unskilled or unscrupulous practitioners. From the standpoint of health care professionals and groups, licensure offers legitimacy, credibility, and greater access to patients.
For CAM practitioners, licensure is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, licensure offers the state’s imprimatur of legitimacy and access to greater integration with conventional medical care. But for some practitioners, licensure also has a “dark side.
” Many healing practices—particularly those from folk traditions—rely on more intuitive sources of knowledge and fit less comfortably into highly structured systems.
From the latter perspective, regulation represents a potentially unhealthy crystallization of healing work into the Western, analytical mindset and subjects practitioners to regulatory mazes they might rather avoid .
Most health care providers, from neurologists to shamans, fit somewhere in the spectrum of mandatory licensure, title licensure, registration, or exemption from licensure. A practitioner who does not fall within one of these four categories could be considered to be engaged in unlicensed medical practice (or the unlicensed practice of another profession).
Although, historically, regulation began with the effort to protect physicians affiliated with the American Medical Association from competition with other practitioners , the regulatory trend today is toward medical pluralism and greater inclusion of a variety of practitioners . Due in part to such inclusion, CAM practitioners are increasingly being integrated into conventional medical settings, including academic medical centers .
The trend towards medical pluralism and inclusion of CAM practitioners appears to be accelerating as a result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) enacted in March 2010.
Notably, for example, Section 2706 of the ACA includes a nondiscrimination provision, championed by chiropractors, that prohibits health care payors from discriminating “against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification under applicable State law” [15, 16].
Elsewhere, the ACA calls for the inclusion of CAM practitioners in new community-based, interdisciplinary health teams (Section 3502) and recognizes both CAM practitioners and chiropractors as part of the health care workforce for purposes of a new National Healthcare Workforce Commission.
It will be interesting to see whether the expanding role (and possibility of federal funding) for CAM services leads to an influx of new practitioners and changes in state licensing requirements.
The existence of licensure for CAM professionals makes it more ly that they and conventional medical professionals will exchange referrals and continue to integrate the divergent practices and philosophies relating to patient care.
Dent v West Virginia, 129 US 114 (1889).
Dent v West Virginia, 129 US 114, 117 (1889).
Cohen MH. A fixed star in health care reform: the emerging paradigm of holistic healing. Ariz State Law J. 1995;27:79.
People v Amber, 349 NYS2d 604, 613 (1973).
People v Amber, 349 NYS2d 604, 612 (1973).
Smith v People, 117 P 612 (Colo 1911).
Stetina v State, 513 NE2d 1234 (Ind Ct App 1987).
State v Hinze, 441 NW2d 593 (Neb 1989).
See Cohen MH. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1998: chapters 1-3.
See Eisenberg DM, Cohen MH, Hrbek A, Grayzel J, van Rompay MI, Cooper RA. Credentialing complementary and alternative medical providers. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(12):965-973.
New York State Education Department Office of the Professions. Chiropractic: license requirements. http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/chiro/chirolic.htm. Accessed May 13, 2011.
Cohen MH. California law for non-licensed practitioners and nutritional advice. http://www.camlawblog.com/articles/dietary-supplements/california-law-for-nonlicensed-practitioners-and-nutritional-advice/. Accessed May 12, 2011.
See Cohen, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, chapter 1.
See Cohen MH. Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion.Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press; 2006.
- Cohen MH, Sandler L, Hrbek A, Davis RB, Eisenberg DM. Policies pertaining to complementary and alternative medical therapies in a random sample of 39 academic health centers. Alt Ther Health Med. 2005;11(1):36-40.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, section 2706. Non-discrimination in health care. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ148/html/PLAW-111publ148.htm. Accessed May 13, 2011.
Virtual Mentor. 2011;13(6):374-378.
The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Get the Facts on CAM
Complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient's discomfort following surgery.
Complementary medicine is usually not taught or used in Western medical schools or hospitals. Complementary medicine includes a large number of practices and systems of health care that, for a variety of cultural, social, economic, or scientific reasons, have not been adopted by mainstream Western medicine.
Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a physician.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can include the following:
- Alexander technique,
- Ayurveda (Ayurvedic medicine),
- chiropractic medicine,
- diet therapy,
- holistic nursing,
- massage therapy,
- nutritional therapy,
- osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT),
- Qi gong (internal and external Qiging),
- spiritual healing,
- Tai Chi,
- traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and
Complementary and alternative cancer treatments are often lumped together. But to a cancer specialist, there is a big difference. Complementary therapy is used in addition to mainstream medical treatment.
Alternative therapy is used instead of proven treatment. Another term you may hear is integrative medicine. This means combining CAM and standard care to try to treat cancer in a way that involves your body, mind and spirit.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes:
- diet supplements,
- mind-body exercises,
- and therapies massage and acupuncture.
Read more about complementary and alternative cancer treatment »
What is alternative medicine?
Alternative medicine practices are used instead of standard medical treatments. Alternative medicine is distinct from complementary medicine which is meant to accompany, not to replace, standard medical practices. Alternative medical practices are generally not recognized by the medical community as standard or conventional medical approaches.
Alternative medicine includes dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, massage therapy, magnet therapy, and spiritual healing.
What are complementary and alternative medicine therapies?
Complementary and alternative medicine therapies fall into five major categories, or domains:
- Alternative Medical Systems
Alternative medical systems are built upon complete systems of theory and practice. Often, these systems have evolved apart from and earlier than the conventional medical approach used in the United States.
Examples of alternative medical systems that have developed in Western cultures include homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine.
Examples of systems that have developed in non-Western cultures include traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.
Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms.
Some techniques that were considered CAM in the past have become mainstream (for example, patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy).
Other mind-body techniques are still considered CAM, including meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.
- Biologically Based Therapies
Biologically based therapies in CAM use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements,3 herbal products, and the use of other so-called natural but as yet scientifically unproven therapies (for example, using shark cartilage to treat cancer).
- Manipulative and Body-Based Methods
Manipulative and body-based methods in CAM are manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, and massage.
Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields. They are of two types:
- Biofield therapies are intended to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body. The existence of such fields has not yet been scientifically proven. Some forms of energy therapy manipulate biofields by applying pressure and/or manipulating the body by placing the hands in, or through, these fields. Examples include qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch.
- Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involve the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating-current or direct-current fields.
Healthy Living: 20 Common Health Myths Exposed See Slideshow
Questions to ask your doctor when considering complimentary or alternative medicine therapies
Cancer patients using or considering complementary or alternative therapy should discuss this decision with their doctor or nurse, as they would any therapeutic approach.
Some complementary and alternative therapies may interfere with standard treatment or may be harmful when used with conventional treatment.
It is also a good idea to become informed about the therapy, including whether the results of scientific studies support the claims that are made for it. 1
- What benefits can be expected from this therapy?
- What are the risks associated with this therapy?
- Do the known benefits outweigh the risks?
- What side effects can be expected?
- Will the therapy interfere with conventional treatment?
- Is this therapy part of a clinical trial?
- If so, who is sponsoring the trial?
- Will the therapy be covered by health insurance?
Choosing a CAM practitioner 1
- If you are seeking a CAM practitioner, speak with your primary health care provider(s) or someone you believe to be knowledgeable about CAM regarding the therapy in which you are interested. Ask if they have a recommendation for the type of CAM practitioner you are seeking.
- Make a list of CAM practitioners and gather information about each before making your first visit. Ask basic questions about their credentials and practice. Where did they receive their training? What licenses or certifications do they have? How much will the treatment cost?
- Check with your insurer to see if the cost of therapy will be covered.
- After you select a practitioner, make a list of questions to ask at your first visit. You may want to bring a friend or family member who can help you ask questions and note answers.
- Come to the first visit prepared to answer questions about your health history, including injuries, surgeries, and major illnesses, as well as prescription medicines, vitamins, and other supplements you may take.
- Assess your first visit and decide if the practitioner is right for you. Did you feel comfortable with the practitioner? Could the practitioner answer your questions? Did he respond to you in a way that satisfied you? Does the treatment plan seem reasonable and acceptable to you?
For additional information, please read “Consumer Financial Issues in CAM.”
SOURCES: 1 National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health
U.S. list of Integrative Health Centers
University of Utah Health Care
Linda B. and Robert B.
Wiggins Wellness and Integrative Health Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) – Salt Lake City (ACIMH)
Offers a number of programs and services including acupuncture, cooking classes, massage therapy, mind-body skills group, nutrition counseling, outdoor fitness program, t'ai chi/qigong, yoga, and zumba classes.
Madsen Health Center, Integrative Medicine – Salt Lake CityOffers integrative consultation available to patients interested in looking at a particular health concern more closely and already have an established relationship with another primary care provider.
L.S. Skaggs Patient Wellness Center – Salt Lake City
Provides health and wellness programming for individuals in the community.
Cancer Wellness House(CSC) – Salt Lake City
“The Cancer Wellness House delivers evidence-based integrative holistic programs including yoga, massage, acupuncture, nutrition, exercise, spirituality, individual, group, social, and community support.” Fees are income.
The University of Vermont Health Network
Central Vermont Medical Center, Integrative Family Medicine – Montpelier
Offers primary care practice specializing in integrative family medicine. Provides services including management of acute & chronic illnesses, health maintenance examinations, diabetic education, acupuncuture, and rehabilitation therapies.
The University of Vermont Medical Center Wellness Resources – Burlington
Healthier Living Classes – Free workshops, which help people living with chronic illnesses learn techniques for reducing stress, getting a good night’s sleep, making informed treatment decisions, problem-solving, healthy eating, exercise and more.
Healthsource Classes – Offers FREE educational programs, healthy lifestyle classes and multi-week workshops.
MindBody Medicine Clinic (MBMC) Chronic Pain Program – Accepts patients with a spectrum of chronic pain types such as arthritis, joint pain, back and neck pain, headaches, neuropathic pain, pelvic pain and fibromyalgia.
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at University of Washington School of Medicine
Coming in the summer of 2019, the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Clinic, directed by Iman Majd, M.D., L.Ac. opens at the UW Neighborhood Ballard Clinic in Seattle.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance – A Collaborative effort involving cancer specialists at Fred Hutch, Seattle Children's, and UW Medicine.
“Our integrative medicine providers have expertise in mind-body medicine, acupuncture and naturopathic medicine.
Our providers collaborate closely with SCCA providers from all Supportive Care disciplines, including medical nutrition, physical therapy, psychology/psychiatry, social work and spiritual health, to improve quality of life during all stages of cancer care and survivorship.
Classes for patients and caregivers at SCCA
Integrative Medicine 101 – Every 1st & 3rd Tues.
of the month, 9-9:45am at Patient and Family Resource Center, 3rd floor, SCCA South Lake Union clinic
Therapeutic yoga for cancer patients, caregivers and survivors – Mondays 3:30-4:45pm in conference room G6055, 6th floor, SCCA South Lake Union clinic and Thursdays from 12:30-1:45pm in conference room G3100, 3rd floor, SCCA South Lake Union clinic
Aurora Health Care
Aurora Wiselives Center for Wellbeing – Milwaukee (ACIMH)Offers massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and family medicine.
A wide variety of classes and community events aimed at promoting health and wellness in eastern Wisconsin are offered through Aurora Health.
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Integrative Health Program – Madison (ACIMH)
Offers classes, programs, & services including acupuncture, healing touch therapy, inpatient services, integrative health physician consultations, massage therapy, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and integrative health & cancer care.
Are there really benefits to Alternative & Complementary Medicine?
According to both Johns Hopkins University and The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), more than 40 percent of the American population report using alternative medicine therapies outside of conventional medicine, and for pain control when prescribed medications prove to be ineffective.
If you’ve ever stretched out on a yoga mat or taken a probiotic, you may be part of this growing segment.
Alternative medicine may include interventions such as herbal remedies, reflexology, chiropractic, nutritional supplements, massage therapy and acupuncture.
Do the professionals buy into the results?
More medical professionals are beginning to suggest the use of alternative therapies in combination with conventional medical treatments, studies are underway to examine the usefulness and safety of these nonstandard treatments.
Alternative and complementary medicine, sometimes referred to as CAM, is an umbrella term for a vast array of treatments that fall outside conventional approaches. The two terms actually refer to different concepts:
Alternative medicine is not included in the traditional curricula taught in medical schools, whereas complementary healthcare refers to alternative treatments used in conjunction with mainstream treatment.
For example, alternative medicine might differ from complementary medicine in that alternative therapy might use a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation or chemo that was recommended by a physician; and complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery.
Alternative medicine therapies can be less expensive than conventional medical treatments.
Even though some alternative therapies might be expensive, many herbal remedies and other natural treatments still cost less than prescription medications and treatments. Acupuncture and chiropractic sessions can cost significantly less than conventional pain therapy treatments.
Combined complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) might offer some of the following:
- chiropractic medicine
- diet therapy
- holistic nursing
- massage therapy
- nutritional therapy
There could be situations where conventional doctors might simply diagnose – nothing more. Then it’s up to the patient to find a doctor who can do more.
It is, in theory, easy to measure results. A patient is diagnosed with an illness. A doctor tries to treat the illness and it persists or it is defeated. But when an ‘alternative practitioner’ defeats an illness it is seldom recorded, it simply becomes ‘anecdotal evidence’.
With so many adults using some form of alternative medicine, benefit programs can be of great value when offering its members 10% to 30% savings on health and wellness needs with over 40 specialties and 43,000 practitioners nationwide.
Whether you need to reduce stress, relieve migraines, quit smoking, or a more serious issue, alternative and complementary medicine can help.