2003-06-13 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

By Dr. Nancy Gahles
Health & Harmony

Health & Harmony

nancy gahlesnancy gahles

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

There are many systems of healing that are outside of the realm of conventional medicine as practiced in the United States. Increasing-
ly, people are searching for and using alternative health care approaches. While most of these are safe and effective, there exists a lack of clinical, scientific evidence for their use. The literature is replete with anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of several of the most popular CAM therapies. Health & Harmony Wellness Education in Rockaway has established itself as a resource center for information and education on key health issues and the CAM therapies that exist for them. Health & Harmony Wellness Education serves as a resource center for guiding the patient in locating a CAM therapy and a practitioner that suits their needs.

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine, as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. While some scientific evidence exists regarding some of the CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies.

Are Complementary and Alternative Medicine different from each other?

Yes, they are different. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using homeopathy, aromatherapy or guided imagery to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery.

Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example is using chiropractic or acupuncture to treat a condition such as chronic back pain.

What is integrative medicine?

Integrative medicine, as defined by NCCAM, combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. An example of this would be using a Doctor of Chiropractic along with a physical therapist for back pain. OR using a Doctor of Chiropractic who specializes in cranial work and nutrition along with a pediatrician for babies and children with chronic ear infections (otitis media).

What are the major types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medical systems are built upon complete systems of theory and practice. Often, these systems have evolved apart from and earlier than the conventional approach used in the United States. Examples of alternative medical systems that have developed include Homeopathy and Naturopathy.

Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. Some techniques that have been considered CAM in the past have become mainstream (for example, patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy). Other mind-body techniques are still considered CAM, including meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.

Biologically based therapies in CAM use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements, herbal products, and the use of other so-called "natural" but as yet scientifically unproven therapies (for example, using shark cartilage to treat cancer).

Manipulative and body-based therapies in CAM are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include Chiropractic and Massage, both of which are licensed professions by the Department of Education and fully recognized for their safety and effectiveness.

Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields. They are of two types:

Biofield qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch.

Health & Harmony

Wellness Education exists for the specific purpose of assisting you in defining the health care needs of you and your family and accessing that which suits you best. The journey to good health ensures a quality of life that we all deserve. If not now….. when?

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