CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.
Typically conventional medicine is also called standard healthcare and is provided by qualified professionals.
Complementary means treatments that are used along with conventional medicine. Alternative means treatments used in place of conventional medicine.
The scope of CAM includes mind-body medicine (meditation, acupuncture, and yoga), manipulative and body-based practices (massage therapy and spinal manipulation), and natural products (such as herbs and dietary supplements).
The term “integrative medicine” implies combined conventional medical care with the best of evidence-based CAM.
While scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, most of them require studies which are able to answer the questions yet not answered.
These include questions such as whether these therapies are safe and whether they work for the purposes for which they are used.
Saftey of CAM Therapies
Standard treatments have generally been studied for safety and effectiveness through an intense scientific process that includes clinical trials with large numbers of patients.
Similarly, CAM therapies need to be subjected to rigorous analytical methods and tools for evaluation of safety and efficacy.
While some therapies have been found to be safe and effective, there are others which have been found to be ineffective or possibly harmful.
Not much is known about many therapies, and the researches have not been fast-paced because of many reasons
- Time and funding issues
- Problems finding institutions and researchers to work with on the studies
- Regulatory issues
Every CAM or Natural Product is Not Safe
By perception and given a consideration that most products are natural, it is assumed that therapies which include botanicals and nutritional products, such as dietary supplements, herbal supplements, and vitamins are safe.
But that is not true in all cases. In addition, they may interfere with the efficacy of other drugs being used.
For example, some studies have shown that kava kava may cause liver damage. Kava kava is a herb that has been used to help with stress and anxiety,
High doses of vitamins, even vitamin C, have been reported to affect the efficacy of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
As these are being sold as supplements and do not fall into drug regulation and prescription is not required to purchase them, it is up to consumers to decide what is best for them.
How Can One Choose CAM Therapy?
Cam therapies have survived and flourished in spite of not being included in conventional healthcare.
But that does not ascertain their efficacy and safety.
If you are using some kind of CAM therapy, be sure to discuss that with your healthcare provider.
Some therapies may interfere with standard treatment or even be harmful in spite of what therapy may claim.
You can also inquire about any available CAM therapy and CAM practitioner for your ailment.
CAM Therapies List
Following is the list of CAM therapies which are used at various places [National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US figures 2007]
- Chelation therapy*
- Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation*
- Deep breathing exercises
- Diet-based therapies
- Atkins diet
- Macrobiotic diet
- Ornish diet
- Pritikin diet
- South Beach diet
- Vegetarian diet
- Zone diet
- Energy healing therapy/Reiki*
- Guided imagery
- Homeopathic treatment
- Movement therapies
- Alexander technique
- Trager psychophysical integration
- Natural products
- Progressive relaxation
- Qi gong
- Tai chi
- Traditional healers*
- Hierbero or Yerbera
- Native American healer/Medicine man
An asterisk (*) indicates a practitioner-based therapy.
Usage Among Population
It has been found that women and those with higher levels of education and higher incomes are more inclined to use complementary and alternative therapy.
Nonvitamin, nonmineral natural products are the most commonly used CAM therapy among adults.
Therapies like deep breathing exercises, meditation, massage therapy, and yoga are being used increasingly.
Most of the people use CAM therapies for musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck, or joint pain.