Munson Health
 
Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medicine: What's What?

Back to Document

by Randall BP
IMAGE The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), defines complementary and alternative medicine as diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently part of conventional medicine. Some scientific evidence exists regarding complementary and alternative therapies, but for most there are many questions in need of answers through well-designed scientific studies.

What’s the Difference?

Complementary medicine is used along with conventional medicine such as using massage and drug therapy to reduce the discomfort of fibromyalgia.
Alternative medicine replaces conventional medicine such as using a special diet to treat cancer instead of conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
Integrative medicine combines mainstream medical therapies with complementary and alternative therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Categories of Alternative Therapies

According to NCCAM, complementary and alternative medicine practices are often grouped into broad categories, including:

Whole Medical Systems

Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine includes a number of therapies. Those that are more common in the United States include:
Qi gong: Qi gong is a practice used to improve circulation and enhance immune function by balancing the flow of energy, known as qi (pronounced "chee"), through movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is based on the premise that qi flows in organized patterns near the surface of the body. Illness results when this energy becomes blocked or depleted. The acupuncturist inserts thin needles at specific points on the energy pathways, which can bring the qi back into balance and restore the patient to health.
Acupressure: Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but, rather than using needles, the practitioner or patient uses his or her fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin.
Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an ancient health practice from India that focuses on the body, mind, and spirit in the prevention and treatment of disease. Herbs, massage, and specialized diets are all used to treat and prevent illness.

Manipulative and Body-Based Methods

 

RESOURCES

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://www.nccam.nih.gov

Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health
http://ods.od.nih.gov

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

 

References


Aromatherapy. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/aromatherapy. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Ayurvedic medicine: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Chiropractic, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/chiropractic?lang=es. Updated August 2013. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: what's in a name? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam. Updated July 2014. Accessed July 22, 2014.


Homeopathy: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/naturopathy/naturopathyintro.htm. Updated March 2012. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Magnets for pain relief. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/magnet/magnetsforpain.htm. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Massage therapy. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/massage. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Meditation: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm. Updated June 2010. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Naturopathy: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy. Updated May 2013. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Reflexology. University of Minnesota website. Available at: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/reflexology. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Reiki: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/reiki/introduction.htm. Updated April 2013. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Tai chi: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm?lang=es. Updated August 2010. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Therapeutic touch. University of Minnesota website. Available at: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/therapeutic-touch. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Traditional chinese medicine: an introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm?lang=es. Updated October 2013. Accessed July 23, 2014.


What is complementary and alternative medicine? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/D347%5F05-25-2012.pdf. Updated May 2012. Accessed July 23, 2014.


Yoga for health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm. Updated May 2008. Accessed July 23, 2014.

 

Revision Information