What is CAM?

What is CAM?

Although the number of people using CAM is rising, many people still don't know how to define it, or how to determine which method of CAM is best for them.

CAM, also known as complimentary and alternative medicine, is exactly as it sounds. It is an alternative approach to healing that either compliments conventional medicine, or is used as an alternative. CAM can be a wide variety of healing methods, from taking a vitamin C supplement when you are feeling a little under the weather and sipping herbal tea, to getting a massage or chiropractic work when you feel tension or pain in your shoulders, back or neck.

Complimentary and alternative medicine can also refer to ancient systems of healing from a wide variety of cultures, such as homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki and Ayurvedic medicine. Each of these therapies has been around for millennia, yet none of them are currently accepted into the Western view of conventional medicine. While conventional medicine takes care of what ails you, CAM usually focuses on preventing you from being ailed in the first place. While conventional medicine uses prescription drugs, CAM is more likely to use natural herbs and various forms of bodywork.

Although complimentary and alternative medicine are together in the term CAM, they are actually individual therapies, some being alternative and some being complimentary.

Complimentary medicine is generally thought of as a compliment to traditional therapies. For instance, you might want to take a tincture of lobelia in conjunction with an asthma inhaler, since lobelia is known to help clear the lungs. Or, you may want to add massage or yoga into your routine, in addition to taking medication for anxiety. Complimentary medicine is a compliment, not a substitution, to conventional medicine.

Alternative medicine is generally a method of healing that is used instead of seeing a traditional doctor. For instance, you may decide to see a naturopath for your allergies, instead of seeing a traditional doctor who would recommend prescription medicine. Or, you may want to see an acupuncturist for chronic pain, instead of taking pain relievers. Alternative medicine is a therapy used as an alternative to traditional methods of medicine, not in conjunction with it.

In this age of technology and scientific medical miracles, many are wondering if using CAM is safe and effective. The answer? It can be, but it is always highly recommended that anyone using CAM in its various forms should share their CAM therapies in full with their traditional practitioner. Not only does this allow each doctor to help you in the most comprehensive way, but it also ensures that you are not taking a supplements or herbs that do not mix well with your traditional medicines. Communication between all health practitioners is the best, and safest, policy.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research, classifies CAM into five categories that are each broad and far reaching in their definitions:

1) Whole Medical Systems that are built upon complete systems of theory and practice, such as Ayurveda, acupuncture and homeopathic medicine;

2) Mind-Body Medicine techniques designed to enhance the mind's capacity to affect bodily functions, such as support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy and meditation;

3) Biologically Based Practices using substances found in nature, such as herbs, vitamins and food;

4) Manipulative and Body-Based Practices that are based on movement or manipulation of the physical body, including massage and chiropractic work and;

5) Energy Medicine that involves biofield or bioelectromagnetic therapies, such as Reiki and any therapy using electromagnetic fields.

CAM definitions are always growing and expanding, while more study and research is being done on these therapies everyday. For the best results, share your CAM experience with your traditional doctor.

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