If you’re confused you’re not alone. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Defining CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) is difficult, because the field is very broad and constantly changing. NCCAM defines CAM as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. ... The boundaries between CAM and conventional medicine are not absolute, and specific CAM practices may, over time, become widely accepted.
According to NIH research many CAM practices, such as acupuncture, have already become wildly accepted. In 2007 Americans spent $34 billion, mostly out-of-pocket, on CAM and the NIH estimated that 4 in 10 adults in the US use some form CAM each year, most often for the treatment of chronic back, neck and joint pain. Unfortunately, the popular tendency to use alternative, complimentary, integrative and holistic interchangeably creates confusion for health care providers and patients and could be one reason 2/3 of American adults using CAM don’t tell their doctors.
At OMS, we recommend that all our patients seek the advice of a physician before they begin using TCM and acupuncture and whenever possible we work to coordinate care with a patients doctor. Over the years we've found that just having a basic and accurate understanding the CAM terms can greatly improve communication with your healthcare providers so together you can make more informed choices concerning treatment options.
Alternative Medicine is the use of CAM in place of, or as an alternative to, conventional medicine.
Non-conventional medical practices were collectively branded in Alternative in 1970’s as interest in these practices was renewed while public disaffection with the negative side effects of drug therapies grew and patients became increasingly frustrated with clinical style of conventional doctors.
While this term remains popular the use of true alternative medicine has become increasingly uncommon.
Complementary medicine refers to the use of CAM together with conventional medicine.
Today complementary medicine is the most common use of CAM in America. As patients demand access to best of both worlds, we see increasing acceptance and cooperation between CAM providers and conventional doctors .
Integrative medicine coordinates and combines treatments from conventional medicine and CAM for which there is some high-quality evidence of safety and effectiveness. It is also called integrated medicine.
This dramatic shift from CAM as primarily alternative to integrated would have been unthinkable before the 1970’s. Now many respected medical schools, including Harvard and Duke, research, teach and operate Integrative medical clinics. The body evidence supporting the benefits of Integrative medicine continues to grow as it becomes more widely practiced.
Unfortunately, because of it's popularity, the term integrative medicine is often misused and/or defined incorrectly. True Integrative medicine involves planned and coordinated care with conventional medicine and CAM. This level of cooperation and planning is time consuming, making it challenging more many practitioners. At OMS we practice Integrative Medicine in our partnership with Dr. Anish A. Shah of Richmond Center for Fertility. Dr Shah and I meet regularly to discuss patients and create treatment plans together. In 2015 we were invited to first international Integrative Fertility Symposium to discuss how we manage our integrative practice.
This term has become increasing popular in recent years, but it can be more problematic and confusing than the others. All the other terms describe one medical system, modality or treatment in relation to Conventional/Western Medicine. But holistic medicine refers to an underlying philosophy and manner of practice that, like Socrates, believes the part can never be well unless the whole is well.
In systems of Holistic Medicine, creating health and vitality is the goal. A practitioner of Holistic Medicine must evaluate the patient's physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health as well as their environmental/relationship health. Only when all of these pieces are connected can a plan for holistic health be created.
Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person - body, mind, and spirit. … In practice, this means that each person is seen as a unique individual, rather than an example of a particular disease. Disease is understood to be the result of physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental imbalance. Healing, therefore, takes place naturally when these aspects of life are brought into proper balance. The role of the practitioner is as guide, mentor and role model; the patient must do the work - changing lifestyle, beliefs and old habits in order to facilitate healing. All appropriate methods may be used, from medication to meditation. - From http://www.holisticmedicine.org/ (2012)
Here at Oriental Medicine Specialists, we practice Traditional and Classical Chinese Medicine, which is a complete medical system that is also a Holistic medical system.
I hope you found this information useful. Please let us know if we can be of service to you.