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Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

What are the different types of CAM?

Many different areas make up the practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In addition, many parts of one field may overlap with the parts of another field. For example, acupuncture is also used in conventional medicine. In the U.S., CAM is used by about 38% of adults and 12% of children. Examples of CAM include:

  • Traditional alternative medicine. This field includes the more mainstream and accepted forms of therapy, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and Oriental practices. These therapies have been practiced for centuries worldwide. Traditional alternative medicine may include:

    • Acupuncture

    • Ayurveda

    • Homeopathy

    • Naturopathy

    • Chinese or Oriental medicine

  • Body. Touch has been used in medicine since the early days of medical care. Healing by touch is based on the idea that illness or injury in one area of the body can affect all parts of the body. If, with manual manipulation, the other parts can be brought back to optimum health, the body can fully focus on healing at the site of injury or illness. Body techniques are often combined with those of the mind. Examples of body therapies include:

    • Chiropractic and osteopathic medicine

    • Massage

    • Body movement therapies

    • Tai chi

    • Yoga

  • Diet and herbs. Over the centuries, man has gone from a simple diet consisting of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, to a diet that often consists of foods rich in fats, oils, and complex carbohydrates. Nutritional excess and deficiency have become problems in today's society, both leading to certain chronic diseases. Many dietary and herbal approaches attempt to balance the body's nutritional well-being. Dietary and herbal approaches may include:

    • Dietary supplements

    • Herbal medicine

    • Nutrition/diet

  • External energy. Some people believe external energies from objects or other sources directly affect a person's health. An example of external energy therapy is:

    • Electromagnetic therapy

    • Reiki

    • Qigong

  • Mind. Even standard or conventional medicine recognizes the power of the connection between mind and body. Studies have found that people heal better if they have good emotional and mental health. Therapies using the mind may include:

    • Meditation

    • Biofeedback

    • Hypnosis

  • Senses. Some people believe the senses, touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, can affect overall health. Examples of therapies incorporating the senses include:

    • Art, dance, and music

    • Visualization and guided imagery

Online Medical Reviewer: Garilli, Bianca, ND
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Date Last Reviewed: 5/15/2015
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