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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Unconventional Medical Approaches

Unconventional Medical Approaches

I. Overview of Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medicines

Aside from the conventional medical practice, there are also complementary medicine together with alternative and integrative medicines that can help the suffering individual alleviate their pains and health problems. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), National Institutes of Health has defined complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as “a group of diverse health care and medical systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of the conventional medicine” (House Select, 2006 p.10). It is very important to note, however, that Complementary medicine alone is very distinct from alternative medicine alone. According to the NCCAM: Complementary medicine is applied jointly with the conventional medicine such as the use of aromatherapy in reducing the patient's pain after undergoing a surgery while alternative medicine is applied as a substitute for conventional medicine such as the use of special diet to treat cancer instead of following the physician’s recommendation to undergo surgery or chemotherapy. Integrative medicine, on the other side, is a combined “mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” (What is CAM?, 2007).

II. How CAM Flourished in the United States?

Due to beliefs by some millions of Americans that conventional medicine alone is not enough, CAM has gained its footing in the United States (U.S) Aside from this reason, it was found out, through the survey conducted in 2002 by Advance Data From Vital and Health Statistics, that the growth in CAM usage among Americans are attributed to one or more of the following factors: marketing forces, on-line information availability, patients’ desire to be actively involved with their medical and health decision making, and patients’ general dissatisfaction with the conventional medical applications (Barnes, P., E.Powell-Griner, K. McFann, and R. Nahin, 2004, p.1) With these identified growth and popularity factors for CAM, the survey has identified major reasons for such usage. With at least thirty-one thousand respondents, the top five relevant reasons that were identified as posted in the NCCAM website (The Use of CAM, 2007) are the following:

a. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the respondents believe that if CAM is used together with the conventional medical applications better health would be achieved.

b. Fifty percent (50%) of the respondents have used CAM due to curiosity stating that “CAM would be interesting to try”

c. Twenty-eight percent (28%) believe that it would not help anymore to use the traditional treatments of the conventional medicine

d. Twenty-six percent (26%) used CAM as a result of their medical professionals or physicians’ suggestion

e. Thirteen percent (13%) have used CAM due to unaffordability of conventional medical applications

It is worth noting that the majority of the respondents have emphasized that they use CAM as a supplement (complementary) or together with conventional medicine and not strictly as alternatives.

III. Hindrances to CAM’s Acceptance and Success

The fact that CAM is complementary and/or alternative, it suggests that it is not the “real thing”. Not all of the Americans are bold enough to try using this alternative due to a lot of factors. With the truth that majority (if not all) of the CAM treatments are not yet scientifically proven, there is still a strong public hesitation, which is very reasonable, as to its use. According to an exploratory study on CAM written by Neeta and Astin and published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2001,the following are the factors that hinder CAM acceptance in the U.S:

a. Gender and age factors, where male and younger Americans are less likely to use CAM

b. Lack of physician support that cause a lot of doubts to potential customers/patients of CAM

c. The general belief that CAM applications are generally ineffective, unlike the proven methods of the conventional medicine

d. General American perception that CAM causes negative side-effects to patients

e. The lack of proper knowledge and awareness and accessibility of/to CAM

Although there is a rapid growth of CAM in the U.S the above reasons must be diminished before CAM can achieve greater recognition and application in the country where conventional scientific, and modern medical practices have gained the trust of the general public.

IV. CAM: The Way I See It

Like the general notion towards CAM I have the same sentiments as the majority. I believe to their effectiveness and philosophies which are for the health benefit of the many. However, using CAM alone without the conventional medical treatments for serious ailments is not my idea of improving and curing health problems. CAM is best applied when used with the scientifically proven approach. I would prefer using the “complement” side than the “alternative” side of it.

When it comes to minor health concerns, however, such as cough or a back pain, I am very comfortable with the use of CAM and I often hire the service of Thai masseuse to relieve me of my back pain and I do not hesitate to drink herb extracts for my cough. Moreover, aromatheraphy is also very relaxing and really makes the blood circulate better.

Another CAM that I am greatly curious with is Acupuncture because of its years of usage. I strongly believe that a medical practice like Acupuncture, be it called an alternative method, is really effective when properly undertaken. Acupuncture would never survive this long if the results are not favorable to patients. I would really like to experience this kind of treatment if given the chance.


Barnes, P., E.Powell-Griner, K. McFann, and R. Nahin. (2004). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2002. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 16 May 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad343.pdf

House Select Study on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Final Report to the House of Representatives 2007 North Carolina General Assembly. (2006). Retrieved 15 May 2008, from http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/documentsites/legislativepublications/Study%20Reports%20to%20the%202007%20NCGA/Complementary%20and%20Alternative%20Medicine.pdf

Neeta, J. and J. A. Astin (2001). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. December 1, 2001, 7(6): 689-696. doi:10.1089/10755530152755243. Retrieved 16 May 2008 from http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/10755530152755243?cookieSet=1&journalCode=acm

The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the United States. (2007). NCCAM Publication, NCCAM, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 16 May 2008 from http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camsurvey_fs1.htm

What is CAM?. (2007). NCCAM Publication No. D347, NCCAM, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 16 May 2008 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/

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