In 2000, Americans spent $10 billion on herbs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements. The estimated growth in the number of chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, optometrists, podiatrists, and other nonphysician clinicians between 1995 and 2005 is double that of physicians.
NCCAM defines CAM as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine (also called Western or allopathic medicine) is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) and D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses.
Complementary medicine is used together with standard medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment. Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical care. An example is treating heart disease with chelation (pronounced "kee-lay-shen") therapy (which seeks to remove excess metals from the blood) instead of using a standard approach.
..."integrative medicine" ... combines standard medical treatments with CAM practices that have shown the most promise. An example is taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement in addition to a prescription statin medication to reduce cholesterol.
Whereas conventional medicine sees health as an absence of disease, alternative medicine frequently mentions a balance of opposing forces (both external and internal). ...
In much conventional medicine the patient is the passive recipient of external solutions, while in CAM the patient is an active participant in regaining health.
Patients used CAM most frequently for chronic conditions such as back pain, depression, anxiety, and headaches, with 4 out of 10 Americans having used CAM for treatment of these chronic conditions. ...
CAM had been used by 30% of the pre-baby boomer cohort, 50% of the baby boomer cohort, and 70% of the post-baby boomer cohort...
Despite advancements in cancer care, cancer survivors continue to experience a substantial level of physical and emotional unmet needs...Cancer survivors who experienced unmet needs within the existing cancer treatment and support system were more likely to use CAM to help with cancer problems.
The use of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) has been increasing in the United States and Europe. Within the adult population 25%–50% use CAM in industrialized countries... According to studies in the United States and Denmark, 20%-30% of paediatric out-patients use CAM, but within groups of patients with certain diagnoses up to 70% of the children use CAM.
Because of the emphasis on whole-body care, alternative medicine practitioners often offer patients a great deal of personal attention. Traditional physicians can be strapped for time and pressured by insurance companies and packed waiting rooms. Alternative medicine practitioners, because of different philosophies and fee structures, typically place greater emphasis on one-on-one attention.
Another draw to alternative medicine is its focus on prevention.
...CAM therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and guided imagery are increasingly integrated into today's conventional treatment of heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses—and scientific evidence supports this approach to health and healing.
Biologically based therapies in CAM use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements,3 herbal products, and the use of other so-called natural but as yet scientifically unproven therapies (for example, using shark cartilage to treat cancer).
Within CAM, some examples of mind-body medicine practices are meditation, hypnosis, tai chi, and yoga. Many studies document that psychological stress is linked to a variety of health problems, such as increased heart disease, compromised immune system functioning, and premature cellular and cognitive aging. Some evidence suggests that mind-body therapies could reduce psychological stress.
Manipulative and body-based methods in CAM are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, and massage.
As one of the oldest and most detailed systems of health care, Chinese medicine has recently returned to some prominence in Western cultures because one of its components, acupuncture, has had considerable success in meeting current randomized-trial standards for efficacy. ... Meta-analyses of studies about the effects of acupuncture on pain show positive differences between acupuncture and no intervention, and equal results between acupuncture and other therapies.
It has been pointed out repeatedly that complementary and alternative medicine can be "ineffective" (in the sense of not being better than a placebo) and still do a world of good to the wellbeing of our patients. Some argue that complementary and alternative medicine should be used regardless of the results of placebo controlled clinical trials, particularly when its use is not associated with serious risks