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Complementary and Alternative Medicines Defined

In all the time this blog has been in existence, many complementary and alternative medical practices have been discussed.  I must apologize that I never really explained the meaning of those terms. So today, I am going to explain more fully about these concepts.

Image source: Wikipedia

First, let me explain the concept of alternative medicine. Alternative medicine refers to medical practices outside the scope of the traditional practice of medicine.  One practices alternative medicine when they opt to use a treatment method in place of traditional medicine.  One example is using mindfulness or yoga as a means to control chronic pain instead of using medication.  Another example is the use of herbal supplements in place of traditional medication...perhaps using Saint John's Wort instead of a prescription antidepressant.

With that in mind, I can explain the term complementary medicine. Complementary practice means that a person is using a non-traditional medical practice to enhance the benefits of any traditional medical treatments they are receiving.  These can include lifestyle changes, such as more exercise or weight loss; but they can also be some of the alternative medical practices, just being used in a different way.  One example: going to see a chiropractor for a chronic back or neck problem in order to reduce dependence on pain medication.

The reality here is that complementary and alternative practices are really much the same. The difference is whether an individual chooses to use these techniques in place of--or in additional to--traditional medical practices.


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