When you hear the words “alternative medicine” what do you think of?
If you are like some people then you probably think of meditation, herbal remedies, acupuncture, hypnosis or something along those lines. All of these practices are treatments that fall under the larger subheading of CAM or complementary and alternative medicine.
But what is alternative medicine all about and more specifically what does it mean to the individuals that seek it out when they are experiencing health and wellness issues? Let us look at this closer.
The Definition of Alternative Medicine:
Alternative medicine does not have a definition that is set in stone. It is often described and determined differently by various individuals. It may mean something different to you than it means to your mother or father, brother or sister, spouse or child. In most cases alternative medicine includes any “healing practices that are not part of mainstream medicine.” This means that it is practices that are not commonly taught to physicians in training when they are in medical school and it is not often used by doctors in their offices or in hospitals throughout the country.
Alternative care is always in flux and is constantly evolving and changing as it becomes more and more acceptable by physicians. It is also becoming more requested and understood by patients with any number of health problems. Many practices that were brushed aside as strange, silly, harmful or downright useless 20 to 30 years ago are now viewed as beneficial therapies that complement traditional medicine that is used in the Western world.
In the United States the agency that does the vast majority of scientific research into alternative therapies is The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) that is found at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
NIH breaks down alternative care into four general categories. These categories include mind-body medicine, biologically based practices, manipulative and body-based practices and finally, energy medicine. These areas often overlap. Once you understand more about each one of these alternative therapy categories then you can determine which one of them or which varieties of them are well suited to your life and your aches and pains.
In part II you can read about the breakdown of the categories of alternative treatments.