Exploring Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Exploring Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Advertisements

Nearly 40% of adults and 12% of children in the U.S. use non-traditional therapies.[1] This group of non-mainstream health care approaches is referred to as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Let’s explore some CAM therapies.

Common and Growing CAM Therapies

There is an endless list of healthcare approaches categorized as CAM. Some of the most common CAM therapies in the U.S.—as well as those growing in popularity—include the following (in alphabetical order):

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Yoga

CAM Therapy Definitions

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body by inserting small, solid needles into the skin. The therapy is performed by practitioners—acupuncturists—specifically-trained in medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries.

Chiropractic

Chiropractic involves the adjustment of the spine and joints to influence the body’s nervous system. Doctors of chiropractic—chiropractors or chiropractic physicians—are highly-trained to perform specific adjustments by-hand and using non-invasive instruments.

Massage

Massage involves rubbing or kneading soft tissues in the body—including muscles, fascia (tissue surrounding muscle), tendons (tissue attaching muscle to bone), and ligaments (tissue connecting bones). Massage is performed by trained massage therapists.

Meditation

Meditation involves focus to suspend the flow of thoughts in the mind and induce a mode of consciousness. Meditation is a self-practice. Guided meditation is meditation in response to guidance provided by a trained practitioner or teacher.

Yoga

Yoga involves specific body postures, breath control, and meditation to influence the nervous system and strengthen the body. Yoga is a self-practice. Guided yoga practice is yoga in response to guidance and instruction provided by a trained yoga teacher.

 

CAM Therapy Uses and Benefits

CAM therapies are frequently used to manage, reduce, or eliminate pain, anxiety, and insomnia in both adults and children.[2]

 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain—such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain—as well as tension and migraine headaches. There are few reported complications from using acupuncture when administered by a qualified practitioner, and the FDA regulates acupuncture requiring that needles be sterile, nontoxic, and for single-use.[3]

Chiropractic

The chiropractic adjustment influences the body’s natural defense mechanisms via the nervous system to reduce pain and improve health. It is widely used to treat back and neck pain, muscle spasm, and other injuries and traumas, such as those sustained from car or work accidents, falls, and sports.

Massage

Massage enhances the function of the body’s tissues and promotes relaxation and wellbeing, making this therapy effective for treating pain symptoms associated with non-specific low-back and neck pain, pregnancy and labor, osteoarthritis of the knee, and cancer as well as reducing depression.[4] Precautions or restrictions should be exercised when using massage therapy to treat cancer and pregnancy.

Meditation

Meditation promotes relaxation, mental calmness, and psychological balance. Evidence shows it may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression, insomnia and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.[5]

Yoga

Yoga calms the nervous system and balances body, mind, and spirit. Yoga can reduce low-back pain, stress, heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and insomnia as well as improve function, strength, and flexibility.[6] Poses should be adapted when necessary.

 

Conclusion

CAM therapies are growing in use indicating that the American people find value in these traditionally non-traditional healthcare approaches, whether the benefits are backed by research or otherwise. You should consult your physician or other healthcare professional before incorporating these or other healthcare approaches into your lifestyle to determine if they are right for your needs.

Stay tuned for future posts featuring different healthcare approaches!

 

References:

[1] Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. National health statistics reports; no 12. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008.

[2] Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. National health statistics reports; no 12. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008.

[3] Acupuncture: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction#hed3.

[4] Massage therapy for heath purposes. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm.

[5] Meditation: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm#hed5.

[6] Yoga: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm#hed2.