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Alternatives to conventional medical care are increasingly popular in the United States, and their growing use by consumers represents a major trend in Western medicine. Alternative therapies appear to be used most frequently for medical conditions that are chronic, such as back pain, arthritis, sleep disorders, headache, and digestive problems. Surveys of U.S. consumers have shown that more people visit alternative practitioners each year than visit conventional primary-care physicians. Consumers do not necessarily reject conventional medicine, however. Many simply feel that alternative modalities offer complementary approaches that are more in line with their personal health philosophies.
The terms alternative medicine and alternative therapies refer to those medical practices that are not considered to be conventional medicine, as practiced in the United States. Other cultures, however, may use one or more of these approaches regularly, and, in fact, many have done so for thousands of years. Most people in the United States who use alternative medicine do so to complement conventional approaches. For example, in addition to using anti-inflammatory drugs to ease muscle pain, they may also use massage, chiropractic, and/or osteopathic manipulation. This practice of complementing conventional medicine with alternative approaches has given rise to the term complementary medicine. Presently, alternative medicine is most commonly referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). As conventional medical practitioners become familiar with alternative approaches, these approaches are being integrated into conventional medicine, which is giving rise to integrative medicine, in which a combination of therapies representing the best of conventional and alternative medicine is used.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine divides the various CAM modalities into five categories: (1) alternative medical systems, (2) mind-body interventions, (3) biologically-based treatments, (4) manipulative and body-based methods, and (5) energy therapies. These modalities include a wide variety of approaches, from acupuncture to nutrition to meditation to chiropractic.
Alternative medical systems include medical practices that are traditional in other cultures, such as the ayurvedic medical system of India, Chinese traditional medicine, and traditional Native American and Hawaiian medicine.
|SOURCE: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine|
|Alternative medical systems||Acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional medical systems, such as aboriginal, African, Middle Eastern, Native American, Chinese, Tibetan, Central and South American|
|Mind-body interventions||Art therapy, dance therapy, hypnosis, meditation, mental healing, music therapy, prayer|
|Biologically-based treatments||Special diets and nutrition therapy, such as macrobiotic diet; herbal (botanical) therapy, vitamin/mineral therapy, orthomolecular therapy|
|Manipulative and body-based methods||Chiropractic, massage therapy, osteopathic manipulation|
|Energy therapies||Biofield therapies, such as Qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch; bioelectromagnetic therapies, which involve the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating current or direct current fields|
Mind-body interventions recognize the connection between the physical body and the spiritual self, and include practices such as meditation, prayer, and music therapy. Biologically-based modalities are primarily nutrition-related and vary from special diets such as the macrobiotic diet to the inclusion of dietary supplements in the diet. Body-based methods involve hands-on manipulation of the body, and include such modalities as massage and chiropractic. The energy therapies are based on the concept that the body has an energy field that can be manipulated to promote healing.
Included among the nutrition approaches that make up the biologicallybased modalities is the use of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements may be botanical (herbal) supplements or nutritional supplements, which include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, metabolites, nonprescription hormones, glandular extracts, and various amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients.
Author Info: Ruth M. DeBusk, The Gale Group Inc., Macmillan Reference USA, New York, Gale Nutrition and Well-Being A to Z, 2004This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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