The terms Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine get used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. However, Complementary Medicine may use the same therapies as Alternative Medicine. Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine are described by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) as follows:
- Complementary Medicine is used together with conventional medicine.
- Alternative Medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.
Complementary Medicine, as well as Alternative Medicine are categorized into five types of therapies: Alternative Medical Systems, Mind-Body Interventions, Biologically Based Therapies, Manipulative and Body-Based Methods, and Energy Therapies. Complementary Medicine in the Alternative Medical Systems category would use systems such as, Homeopathic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In the Mind-Body category a doctor may help control symptoms of a patient’s illness by using techniques like Meditation, Yoga, or Biofeedback. The Biologically Based Therapies that may be used in Complementary Medicine could consist of the doctor prescribing various dietary supplements and herbal products. In the Manipulative and Body-Based category, the doctor may refer you to a Chiropractor or Massage Therapist. And finally, in the Energy Therapy category your doctor who is practicing Complementary Medicine may use one of two types of therapy: Biofield Therapy (Acupuncture, Qi Gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch) or Bioelectromagnetic-based Therapies (Magnet Therapy, Polarity Therapy, and Light Therapy).
Now patients do not have to choose between finding a doctor that practices conventional medicine and one that practices alternative medicine. Complementary Medicine uses both approaches. There are alternatives to pharmaceuticals and healthier methods of controlling symptoms.