Delving into the World of Alternative Therapy and Integrative Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the popular term for health and wellness therapies that have typically not been part of conventional Western medicine.

National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at National Institute of Health (NIH) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on complementary and integrative health approaches. According to NCCIH, if a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it is considered complementary; if a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it is considered alternative.

Conventional - CAM (Created by Smita Dwivedi)

Conventional – CAM
(Created by Smita Dwivedi)

Integrative health care is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s world. Integrative health care brings together conventional and complementary approaches together to benefit patients.

The use of integrative approaches to health and wellness has grown within care settings across the United States and the world as a whole. Researchers are currently exploring the potential benefits of integrative health in a variety of situations, including pain management for military personnel and veterans, relief of symptoms in cancer patients and survivors, and programs to promote healthy behaviors. (NIH)

The scope and reach of CAM in the United States as well as other countries is constantly gaining much popularity. Since people have started to realize the fact that  integrating holistic approach in a conventional treatment can escalate recovery, more and more healthcare practitioners are recommending it. What was considered whimsical at one point of time is gaining acceptance in the current medical scenario.

What are the various kinds of alternative, complimentary therapies available?

The various alternative, complimentary therapies include natural products and dietary supplements including homeopathy, herbal products as well as Ayurveda; and a variety of procedures including acupuncture, acupressure, yoga, massage therapy and diverse meditation techniques. Unique techniques of treatment such as music therapy, art therapy, play therapy are few examples of the promising alternative/complimentary therapies that are being offered for a variety of ailments.

Can complementary/alternative therapies be used with children? Are they safe and effective?

Complimentary and alternative therapies can definitely be given to children. There have been numerous studies on the topic. Researchers and therapists are still evaluating the effectiveness and safety.

“In the past, children were often excluded from research studies due to special protections, and findings from studies of adults were applied to children.Today, the National Institutes of Health requires that children be included in all studies, unless there are scientific and ethical reasons not to.”

Social media is packed with success stories about the role of alternative and complementary therapies for children and young adolescents.

Melt Therapy is another form of alternative therapy that targets aches and pains and even helps with stress. A self -treatment technique eases chronic pain and overall good health. Physical therapists discovered it could help to enhance children’s performance in class. Children find it very useful as it helps with relieving them of aches as well as stress.

For children with burns, recovery can be tedious and painful but as 9News reports, “one Queensland hospital is trialing an alternative therapy to help them cope.”

Major healthcare institutions have integrated complimentary therapies in their treatments. “The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will now be offering acupuncture as an alternative therapy for patients.”

Twitter talks about miraculous stories about unique alternative therapy procedures and their success in children with ADD, ADHD and even Cerebral Palsy.

In art therapy, “the person who guides the client through the process is a psychotherapist who has been through rigorous training in the discipline of psychology, art therapy, clinical practice and is usually certified by a credentialed board.” Pin interest shares an article about this interesting concept with its members.

It is actually delightful to read the various success stories that have been possible due to these unique and effective forms of treatments.

Complementary health procedures have limited medical insurance coverage. Research and studies are mostly responsible for this. Unlike traditional medicine most CAM therapies still rely on people’s trust and way of thinking. Hopefully with enough empirical evidence these therapies will be better integrated in treatments of children as well as adults thereby eliminating excessive harmful chemicals that are part and package of conventional medicine which is not always necessary.

Summarizing the above points, if there are alternatives, why not try them?

We cannot say that CAM is devoid of side effects or totally risk free.The herbal products and homeopathy should always be used with caution and under supervision of experienced and licensed practitioner. The dosage and frequency should be strictly monitored, especially in case of children. Yoga postures and techniques such as acupuncture, acupressure as well as other therapies too should be practiced with care and under supervision of licensed and experienced professionals.

It would be unwise to depend totally on CAM, where there is a need for conventional western medicines. But, integrating the two under experienced supervision can make a difference in lives of children and adults and lead towards a healthy life.