Complementary and Alternative Options
The National Institutes of Health describes complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as a collection of diverse health-care systems, practices, and products that are not usually considered part of conventional medicine. These contain things such as acupuncture and even ultrasound. Some of these treatments do have scientific research to support their claims, although many do not. Even though research may be lacking, treatments such as acupuncture have been conducted for thousands of years. They are fairly valid and many people will swear by them.
Nowadays, conventional medicine has started to accept and even advise some CAM practices, this area of medicine is often referred to as integrative medicine. This discipline unites conventional and CAM treatments for which there is scientific proof of safety and effectiveness. Practitioners are generally medical doctors with education in CAM treatments. Amongst the most well-known integrative medicine doctors is best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil. He has published numerous books on the subject with the aim to encourage the public and other medical professionals to look past conventional medicine as the only healing modality (modality meaning any therapeutic technique or agent). In this area, we will go over the most commonly accepted CAM treatments for back care and treatment. You won’t require a doctor’s prescription or permission to try these treatments. However, we highly advise that you tell your doctor about any and all treatments you do attempt. Similarly, you should tell your CAM practitioner about any conventional treatments, particularly medicines that you are taking.
Let’s take a look at the different schools of medicine. Alternative medicine covers therapies and treatments which are considered to be outside of conventional medicine including massage and acupuncture. As a general rule, alternative medicine is less invasive, gentler, and built around nature (for example herbal medicine). The practice focuses on holistic practices in that it evaluates the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Alternative medicines are used in place of conventional medicine—for instance, taking ginger to calm nausea instead of Pepto Bismol.
Complementary medicine refers to using alternative medicine with conventional treatments. These can be patient-selected or doctor-recommended—for instance, using massage therapy along with ibuprofen in order treat back pain.
Conventional medicine is the area of medicine you will probably be most familiar with; it involves medical doctors and other health-care professionals (nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) diagnosing and treating symptoms through drugs, radiation, or surgery. It’s referred to as allopathic medicine, mainstream medicine, and Western medicine.
Integrative medicine is a branch of conventional medicine which incorporates CAM techniques for whose effectiveness there has been sufficient scientific evidence. It’s a rapidly growing field. You’re likely to see many major medical hospitals having integrative medicine centres. However you should appreciate that even though an integrative medical doctor advises a treatment, patients will often be expected to pay for many of these treatments. Fortunately, that’s starting to change as some insurance policies have started to cover treatments such as therapeutic massage, chiropractic treatments, and biofeedback.