Complementary and Alternative Medicine or CAM are diagnostic or therapeutic techniques that are outside the mainstream of Western medicine. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine while complementary medicine is used along with conventional medicine though some of the treatments methods are the same. Although most people utilize mainstream medicine for diagnosis and basic information, many are now turning to alternatives for what they believe to be total body health-enhancing measures.
CAM is very popular with people who are terminally ill and has also been used on animals. There have also been sufficient instances of "inexplicable" extension of life and other significant health benefits for people who have pursued these options that the Western health systems are now seriously starting to further assess these systems. Alternative medicine is a fairly broad term which covers many different methods of treatment such as acupuncture, homeopathy, Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic and more.
Therapies such as biofeedback, massage, and exercise are also considered alternative medicine. Alternative medicine includes various systems of healing or treating disease such as chiropractic, homeopathy, and faith healing. Alternative medicine is a comprehensive approach to healing that uses natural methods to bring physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harmony. Alternative medicine systems believe body has a network of channels (meridians) that carry a subtle form of life energy. Since it uses a holistic approach and time-tested, natural remedies, hands-on treatments to help enable the body's own innate powers to do the healing, alternative medicine requires the patient to take a highly active part in healing their own body including prevention and treatment.
Complementary Medicine is sometimes used by "conventional" medical practitioners as an add on to "conventional" medical treatments such as drugs and surgery. Complementary therapies are used to improve wellness, prevent disease or treat health problems but the most popular and prevalent use remains pain control. Included in complementary medicine are a large number of practices and systems of health care like acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, osteopathy, reflexology and chiropractic that for many reasons have not been fully adopted by mainstream medicine. Complementary medicine also includes dietary and nutritional therapies such as macrobiotics, vegetarianism, and orthomolecular medicine.
Although CAM is starting to gain popularity in the West, most clinical research by the health care industry continues to focus on the success of each single modality or therapy within these systems. This is unfortunate as CAM is generally based on the belief that you need to, simultaneously, treat the whole person - body, mind, and spirit - which can include the use of many therapies at the same time.