Alternative medicine can mean any healing practice that is not covered by conventional medicine. The most common are naturopathy, chiropractic, herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, homeopathy, acupuncture, Unai and Ayurveda.
The popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (known as CAM in medical circles) varies from country to country and from culture to culture. In Western countries, it is often used as a complimentary medicine in conjunction with or to complement conventional medical treatments and can be classified into five major groups: whole medical systems (including traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda); mind-body medicine; biologically based practices; manipulative and body based practices (including chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation); and bioelectromagnetic based therapies.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), many Americans use CAM in pursuit of health and well-being. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, showed that approximately 38 percent of adults use CAM.
Defining CAM is difficult, because the field is very broad and constantly changing. 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 osteopathy) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. The boundaries between CAM and conventional medicine are not absolute, and specific CAM practices may, over time, become widely accepted.
“Complementary medicine” refers to use of CAM together with conventional medicine, such as using acupuncture in addition to usual care to help lessen pain. Most use of CAM by Americans is complementary. “Alternative medicine” refers to use of CAM in place of conventional medicine. “Integrative medicine” (also called integrated medicine) refers to a practice that combines both conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness.
Steven Novella writes in his blog post CAM in Medical Schools on the Science-Based Medicine blog, “When we look a little closer at the numbers we find that the vast majority of so-called CAM use in the US is either massage (16%), chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (21.9%), and yoga (9.5%). (There is overlap in use so you can’t simply add these percentages, but the vast majority of the mythical “40%” figure comes from these categories.) So some form of exercise, stretching, or muscle manipulation accounts for the vast majority of CAM use. Throw in some other modalities that are not really CAM, like relaxation and nutrition (since when has the science of nutrition been alternative to science) and that accounts for even more. The difference between the scientific approach and the typical CAM approach is that science is based in reality. It slowly builds a knowledge base that is internally consistent. Whereas most CAM modalities are philosophy-based – they are based on pre-scientific superstitious notions of health and illness that have not been subjected to any kind of systematic study, or that have been left behind by scientific advance (such as the notion of life energy). These philosophies are often mutually exclusive, which doesn’t seem to bother the “big tent” CAM movement. In the end, the alleged underlying “imbalances” sought for by CAM practitioners are illusory and not based in reality. That doesn’t stop them from being smug in their dismissal of scientific medicine.”
Despite the arguments for or against complementary, alternative, or even integrative medicine, the fact remains that healthcare consumers want to know their options. If they read on the internet about an alternative ‘cure’ for their son’s Autism, they’ll (hopefully) ask their healthcare provider for more information. For this reason alone, healthcare providers need to educate themselves so they can, in turn, educate their patients.
Professional Development Resources offers two continuing education courses for healthcare professionals that address various CAM modalities. Both courses are based on a series of live lectures given by NCCAM experts and are transcribed verbatim.
CAM Part 1: Overview & Dietary Supplements is a 3-hour CE course that is comprised of the first two lectures in the NCCAM series. The first half of the course is presented by Stephen E. Straus, MD, Director at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health and is an overview of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), including biologically-based systems, mind-body medicine, manipulative and body-based approaches, alternative medical systems, and energy therapies. The second half is presented by Paul M. Coates, PhD, Director of the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health and addresses herbs and other dietary supplements, including an overview of dietary supplements, research on their efficacy and safety, research highlights, and sources of information. Course #30-22 | 2006 | 31 pages | 24 posttest questions
CAM Part 2: Mind-Body Medicine & Acupuncture is a 3-hour CE course comprised of the third and fourth lectures in the NCCAM series. David Spiegel, MD, Professor and Associate Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, reviews the relationship between stress, stressful situations, including medical illness, and altered mental states. Richard Hammerschlag, PhD, President of the Society for Acupuncture Research then addresses acupuncture, its history, what it is, what it does, and whether it works. Course #30-23 | 2006 | 35 pages | 20 posttest questions
Professional Development Resources is recognized as a provider of continuing education by the following:
AOTA: American Occupational Therapy Association (#3159)
APA: American Psychological Association
ASWB: Association of Social Work Boards (#1046)
CDR: Commission on Dietetic Registration (#PR001)
NBCC: National Board for Certified Counselors (#5590)
NAADAC: National Association of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselors (#00279)
California: Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625)
Florida: Boards of SW, MFT & MHC (#BAP346); Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635); Occupational Therapy Practice (#34). PDResources is CE Broker compliant.
Illinois: DPR for Social Work (#159-00531)
South Carolina: Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193)
Texas: Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) & State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678)