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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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  1. Definitions and disciplines
  2. Alternative medical systems
  3. Biologically based therapies
  4. Manipulative and body based methods
  5. Mind body interventions
  6. Energy therapies
  7. Appeal and use of complementary and alternative medicine
  8. Clinical approach
  9. Risks
  10. Evidence base
  11. Failed approaches
  12. Supportive approaches
  13. Specific therapies
  14. Bibliography

Despite dramatic advances in medical science and evidence-based practice, many people turn to other healing approaches, some derived from ancient medical traditions and others from new-age concepts. Although extraordinarily diverse in their nature and purpose, these approaches share enormous appeal, often despite the lack of compelling evidence that they are safe or effective. The term alternative medicine is used to indicate practices that are used instead of mainstream approaches, whereas complementary medicine refers to practices that are used as adjuncts to conventional medicine. The most recent term for these approaches, integrative medicine, signals the hope that conventional medicine can embrace any modality that proves to be safe and effective, regardless of its origins, under a more inclusive health care umbrella.

[...] MIND-BODY INTERVENTIONS Complementary and alternative medicine is based on the premise that the mind influences bodily functions, and vice versa, and that the interactions between them can be affected for salutary purposes. This belief is a remarkably ancient and strikingly modern concept that conflicts with the cartesian dissociation of mind from body that dominated Western philosophical thought for more than 300 years. MIND-BODY INTERVENTIONS Some uses for hypnosis, cognitive therapies, and biofeedback are well integrated within conventional medicine. Other approaches involving meditation; dance, music, and art therapy; and prayer are considered complementary or alternative. [...]

[...] Appeal and Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Widely cited estimates suggest that 42% of Americans employ complementary and alternative medicine therapies to help satisfy their personal health care needs. The appeal is sufficient for Americans to spend billions of dollars on these therapies annually without any prospect of reimbursement from insurance companies. Appeal and Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Surveys indicate that patients choose complementary and alternative medicine approaches to sustain or restore their health and well-being, primarily to relieve symptoms of chronic or terminal illnesses that are not addressed adequately by conventional medical treatments. [...]

[...] Conclusions The question is what elements of today's complementary and alternative medicine should become tomorrow's normative practice? The willingness of practitioners to commit adequate time, to listen carefully to patients, and to touch them physically and emotionally must remain part of conventional medicine. There are no longer any doubts that proper diet, exercise, intellectual and social engagement, and avoidance of stress and addictive substances are beneficial practices. Conclusions Physicians must be trained to incorporate these messages into their routine interactions with patients. [...]

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