Complementary and alternative therapies are often linked together as one. They are different treatment modalities and connote specific interventions with in or without the realm of standard medical care.
Complementary medicine are treatments used along with standard medical regime. They are not considered to be part of the standard medical treatment. They are used along with the evidenced based treatment prescribed.
Alternative medicine is treatment used instead of standard medical treatments.
Integrative medicine is the combined approach, standard medicine with complementary and alternative measures, that have been shown to be safe by independent scientific verification. This is the approach for the entire person physically and emotionally.
Complementary health approaches are usually used in conjunction with standard medical care. The latest report from, The National Health Statistics Reports Number 79, February 10, 2015, found that 33.2% of U.S. adults used complementary approaches in the last year. The most popular being nonvitamin, non-mineral dietary supplements with approximately 17.2%. This group consists of fish oil supplements and glucosamine, chondroitin or a combination of the two. The second was deep breathing exercises with 10.9%. The deep breathing exercises are used independently or in combination with other approaches. The third most popular are Yoga, tai chi, and qi gong combined with 10.1%. Yoga being the most popular of the three. Chiropractic care and osteopathic manipulation was the fourth with 8.4%. Meditation was used by 8.0% for the top 5. Less than 5% used exclusively complementary care and not standard medical care.
Alternative therapies are chosen sometimes by people who have cancer for various reasons. The claims by alternative therapy promoters may be that they can cure the cancer and prolong the patient’s life.
Some people stop cancer treatments or never start them. There is no scientific or medical evidence that show that these therapies work. Alternative cancer treatment has been promoted since the 1940’s with the Gerson therapy, Koch antitoxins, Hoxsey treatments, laetrile, shark cartilage all gaining popularity over the years. Alternative therapies are thought not to be as popular currently as integrative therapies have become more accepted.
The study of Alternative and Complementary illnesses by the government has been ongoing officially for almost 30 years. In the early 1990’s the Office of Alternative Medicine was started within the National Institute of Health. After a few years it was renamed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) this agency was studying the effects of a wide diverse group of therapies from energy forces to homeopathy. The focus over the past few years has been integrative health, so much so that the agency was recently renamed for the third time to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – NCCIH. Integrative medicine is currently being studied in over 50 medical facilities across the country. The focus of many of the studies is on chronic diseases. The importance of the mind body connection as demonstrated by the Chinese and their treatments is also being extensively studied. Integrative doctors are trying to restore balance in the whole person. Currently 84% of healthcare dollars are spent on chronic illnesses. Approximately 49% of all adults in the U.S. have at least one chronic illness.
The key to treating chronic illness, reducing stress, improving life for patients with chronic pain, is thought to be studying and utilizing these integrative practices as they become evidenced based.
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