Complementary Medicine - A Beginner's Guide

If you're confused by the concept of complementary medicine, this guide will help you figure out exactly what types of medicine are being discussed and how these medical practices may be of use to you.

Alternative and complementary medicine are terms that are often used interchangeably even though one term actually describes a subset of the other. Alternative medicine is any medical practice not taught in conventional Western, allopathic medical schools. Complementary medicine is alternative medicine that is used in conjunction with conventional medical practices.

When alternative medicine is used instead of conventional Western medicine, it is referred to as alternative medicine, as it is an alternative method of treating a medical condition. When alternative medicine is used in conjunction with allopathic medicine as a supplementary form of medical treatment, it is usually called complementary alternative medicine.

Some Western doctors are resistant to acknowledge any alternative medicine, referring to alternative healing practices as quackery. However, more and more Western doctors are accepting a more holistic health care approach, encouraging the use of complementary alternative medicine along with prescribed allopathic practices. One example of this is cancer treatment. Most Western doctors will use a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer, but they also may encourage their patients to use acupuncture to combat discomfort and nausea. Another good example of Western medicine and complementary alternative therapy working in tandem is chiropractic care for patients who are also seeing a physical therapist after back surgery.

The five most common forms of alternative medicine practiced in the United States are naturopathy, chiropractic medicine, ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture. These are not the only forms of alternative medicine, just the most common. Many pieces of each of these medical practices can be used as complementary therapy for patients seeing Western doctors for health conditions. It is important, however, that you communicate all treatments received to all doctors involved so you do not end up taking a naturopathic prescription for a condition that will clash with a Western prescription for the same condition. For example, if you are receiving blood-thinning treatments from a naturopath and are taking a blood-thinning prescription from a Western doctor, you may end up thinning your blood too much and end up hemorrhaging. Always communicate all supplements, treatments and prescriptions to all your health care providers.

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