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The Benefits of Complementary Medicine

by Marcela De Vivo

People treat their medical conditions in a variety of ways. Many prefer conventional Western medicine, while others look toward alternative, holistic therapies. However, more and more people are beginning to combine Western medicine and alternative medicine, using both forms to benefit and improve their health. 

This form of medicine is called CAM, or complementary alternative medicine.  Many people are using CAM in combination with Western medicine for the treatment of any number of illnesses, both minor and long-term.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the number of people who tried and/or used alternative medicine doubled between 2002 and 2007. This number continues to grow every year, and as such so does the popularity of CAM. Here are some of the most common alternative treatments that are being used as part of CAM: 

Massage therapy

Massage therapy dates back thousands of years to the time of ancient China and Greece. Massage therapy is the practice of using rubbing and muscle manipulation. 

“Medical massage” is often used to describe any massage given in a medical capacity, but it is a loosely defined term, including everything from decongestive therapy, which can be used for patients with breast cancer; sports massage, which deals with the rehabilitation of sport injuries; to reflexology, which is believed to be able to every part of the body through massing various reflex points in the hands and feet. 


Meditation dates back thousands of years and began during Eastern religious traditions. Today meditation is also used outside of religious traditions, and is used in the promotion of health and wellness.

The purpose of meditation is for a patient to focus their energy and attention. When mediating there are usually four key elements: a quiet location, good comfortable posture, focus of attention and a positive energy. 


Yoga uses the mind and body to bring forth healing and relaxation which promotes health. Yoga is the art of using physical posture, breathing, and meditation. It is the fifth most commonly used CAM in the United States since 2002. 

While many people use yoga as part of an workout routine, yoga can be used to help lower blood pressure, the promotion of a health digestive system, sleep, concentration and to improve coordination. 

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements have been used for generations as a form of medicine. Some natural supplements have been known to date back to prehistoric times. By the middle ages, the number of documented herbal remedies was in the thousands. 

Today, herbal supplements are sold over the counter to help people with any number of health issues, from nutritional needs, heart health, and even weight loss. Another form of supplement is a probiotic: live microorganisms that are used to help promote a healthy dietary track. 


Acupuncture is one key component of Chinese traditional medicine and has been used for thousands of years. Acupuncture is a series of procedures that involves the stimulation of points on the body by using a variety of techniques, including the penetration of a thin, small metallic needles that are placed in the skin. This was traditionally done by hand, but some acupuncture centers now use electric stimulation to place the needles. 

Acupuncture is often used as a complementary treatment for patients with chronic pain, or nausea due to chemotherapy. It’s also been known to help with fertility and hypertension. 

While these treatments are the most common, there are an increasing amount of types of alternative therapies that have gained popularity over the years. While evidence of their effectiveness is hard to judge by Western standards, each treatment has significant evidence for the measure of it’s effectiveness in treating patients. 

And, as these alternative treatments become more accepted, many Western medical schools are beginning to teach these forms of alternative techniques. Since many of them not only treat symptoms of conditions, but to prevent illness and improve overall well-being, few doctor’s would argue them being used as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

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