What’s the difference between complementary and alternative medicine?
While both complementary and alternative medicine tend to be used interchangeably when referring to non-traditional medical treatment, there is a difference between the two.
- Complementary medicine is when you do special treatment along with a more conventional therapy to help a certain condition.
- Alternative medicine is when you only use the non-traditional treatment in place of conventional treatment. (5)
Having said that, it’s quite rare for a patient to only use alternative medicine when being treated for most ailments. Usually, an alternative medical practitioner works in accordance with the patient’s primary doctor to help find the best treatment.
This article will explain the different types of complementary and alternative medicines and inform you of their various benefits.
Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Pain Relief
What follows are various types of complementary and alternative medicine.
Acupressure is like acupuncture but without the needles. In this form of treatment, specialists will use their hands, elbows, or feet to apply pressure to the body’s meridians. It is believed that by applying pressure to the meridians, the body is relieved of pressure and blockage, allowing for energy to flow and to feel better. Chemo patients have found that acupressure helps relieve them of the nausea from treatment. (1)
Some people find that applying needles to various parts of the body helps relieve stress and pain in those areas. (1)
This is when people use essential oils to fill their environment with aromas to help elicit a specific mood. Sometimes this is from inhaling the oils, other times the oils are diffused into the air. Various aromas help in different ways. Some will help you focus (such as rosemary or peppermint) when preparing for a test or a major presentation, while others may help you relax (such as lavender or clary sage) and fall asleep faster. (1)
Chiropractic and Osteopathic Manipulation
These types of treatments can help relieve back or neck pain. This is when you go to a chiropractor or specialist to help stretch out your body or loosen your joints.
One of the most popular procedures is spinal manipulation (otherwise known as an adjustment), where pressure is applied to the spinal cord to help those suffering from mobility issues. It is known to loosen up the muscles and make it easier for patients to move. (5)
This concept is similar to vaccinations where you treat “like with like.” That is, where you treat a condition with something similar to the condition.
Homeopaths take natural ingredients that would cause a reaction in the body and heavily dilute them. Once the patient takes the diluted substance, it is expected to cause enough of a reaction that the body would fight it in order to help the body heal. (1)
There are so many benefits of therapeutic massage, including reducing stress, alleviating chronic pain, improving range of motion, enhancing your immune system, easing depression and lessening anxiety, as well as lowering blood pressure.
Movement Based Treatment
Some people find various mind-body movement techniques help them heal. These exercises can help cope with stress or pain throughout the body.
3 examples include: (5)
- Tai Chi – This involves a series of slow, flowing exercises in a combination of movement, meditation, and rhythmic breathing to help improve the flow of vital energy through the body to promote healing from a variety of health conditions. Many people use it to help improve both mental and physical health. It also helps improve posture, balance, flexibility, and strength. (4)
- Yoga – Stretching your body may help relieve your body of stress and improve mental health.
- Qigong – Similar to tai chi, this ancient Chinese method of exercise combines meditation, controlled breathing and movement to help relax and improve mental energy. (2)
Reflexology involves placing pressure in specific parts of the patient’s hands, feet, or ears to help them heal in other parts of the body. It is believed that by pressing on certain pressure points, it will have a positive effect on someone’s overall health.
One example is pressing on the arch of your foot is expected to improve bladder function. It is possible to perform reflexology on yourself or to go to a reflexologist for treatment. (1)
Reiki is described by one person who is passing positive energy onto another person either by lightly touching them or from a slight distance off of the body. It’s intended to help relax, speed healing, reduce pain, and improve general well-being. (1)
Natural products and supplements are considered to be the most popular forms of complementary and alternative medicine.
Some examples include: (1)
- Herbal remedies – You can find a variety of different shakes or drink mixes loaded with vitamins that will help improve your general well being. For example, Natural Wellness’s UltraNourish is a superfood shake that’s full of fruits, vegetables, probiotics, natural herbs and protein, all of which help your liver as well as your heart, digestive tract and general health.
- Probiotics – Probiotics are used to help improve gastrointestinal and immune health. It gives your body the needed boost to help process foods more effectively, helping get nutrients to your liver and to the rest of your body. Probiotics, like those found in Natural Wellness’s Ultra Probiotic Formula, prevent the buildup of fat in your liver while protecting you from disease-causing bacteria.
- Fish oil supplements – Fish oil has been shown to reduce the risks of coronary heart disease as well as support normal cardiovascular, platelet and blood vessel function. It can also improve cholesterol levels, insulin function, and brain function.
Suffice it to say, there are a plethora of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) to choose from. The overriding goal of CAM is to offer you relief from pain and stress.