Health Alternatives - An Overview
Health Alternative Topics - from
Acupuncture to Yoga.....
tell well known high-tech medicine with surgery, prescription drugs, and more. Medicine as practiced by holders
of M.D. degrees and by their allied health professionals.
Alternative medicine has been described as "any of various systems of healing or treating disease (as
chiropractic, homeopathy) not included in the traditional medical curriculs taught in the United Staates and
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 conventional doctor.
Complementary medicine refers to a group of therapeutic and diagnostic disciplines that exist largely outside
the instiutions where conventional health care is taught and provided.
As its name suggests, complementary medicine differs from alternative medicine in that it does not offer a
competing (or 'alternative') viewpoint to that based on science-based knowledge.
Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example of a
complementary therapy is using aromatherapy. A therapy in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs,
and trees is inhaled to promote health and well-being.
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
CAM is a group of
diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of
Integrative medicine combines treatments from
conventional medicine and CAM for which there is some high-quality evidence of safety and effectiveness. It is also
called integrated medicine.
An approach to medicine that combines
treatments from conventional medicine and CAM for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety
Health Care is a multi-billion dollar industry. Alternative
Health accounts for only a small percentage of that amount. It is estimated that "alternative" medicine is a $15
billion a year business. Traditionally, most insurance companies have not covered "alternative"
Many doctors dismiss alternative medicine as unproven, ineffective and potentially dangerous
nonsense - leading advocates to seek the kind of evidence that will persuade the scientific community at
Research conducted by the BBC has shown that
alternative medicines are becoming increasingly popular.
Yet their effectiveness is yet to be proven to the majority of medical practitioners in the
UK and there are concerns over safety as many of the treatments remain
Many people utilize mainstream medicine for diagnosis and
basic information, while turning to alternatives for
what they believe to be health-enhancing measures. However, studies indicate that a majority of
people use alternative approaches in conjunction with conventional
What are the major types of complementary and
Whole 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 whole 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
traditional Chinese medicine and
- Biologically Based
Biologically based practices in CAM use
substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and
vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements,
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
Manipulative and body-based practices in
CAM are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the
body. Some examples include chiropractic or
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.
* Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involve the unconventional use of
electromagnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating-current or direct-current fields.
Source: National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM),
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda
, Maryland .
The careful national survey reported by Eisenberg et al. in
the New England Journal of Medicine tells us that in a given year (1993) about a third of all American adults use
unconventional medical treatments, such as relaxation
techniques, chiropractic, therapeutic massage, special diets, and megavitamins. Unconventional
techniques are most often used for back problems, headache, arthritis,
musculoskeletal pain, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. The most frequent users are educated,
upper-income white Americans in the 25-to-49-year age group, and they are more likely to live in the West than
elsewhere in the country (N Engl J Med 1993; 329:1200-1204).
In recent decades, North American health consumers have
increasingly turned to unconventional therapies to complement, or replace, traditional biomedical practices. The
topic of unconventional therapies can no longer be ignored or marginalized because, for better or worse, each
seriously ill person cannot help but be confronted with choices about their possible usage.
Why is "alternative" health care (AHC) so
There are several reasons.
- Fear of
surgery and of the
side effects of drugs alienate many people
from conventional medicine. AHC is attractive because it does not offer these frightening types of
- Conventional medicine often fails to
discover the cause of an illness or to relieve pain. Alternative" practitioners often encourage their
patients to be hopeful even when the situation
- When conventional medicine does
discover the cause of an illness, it often fails to offer treatment that is guaranteed to be successful.
Again, AHC offers hope when conventional
medicine can't offer a safe and sure cure.
- AHC often uses "natural" remedies. Many people believe that what is natural is
necessarily better and safer than what is artificial (such as pharmaceuticals).
- AHC is often less expensive than conventional medicine.
- Many doctors of conventional medicine
treat diseases first and people secondly. Alternative" practitioners are often "holistic," claiming to treat the mind, body and soul of the
- The main reason people seek
"alternative" health care, however, is that they think
it "works." That is, they feel
better, healthier, more vital, etc., after the treatment