What is complementary medicine?
"Complementary medicine" is a broad term to describe any approach to health and medicine (including treatment and prevention) that's outside the realm of conventional medicine and clinical practice in our health care system. Complementary therapies are used to improve wellness, prevent disease or treat health problems.
Acupuncture, yoga, massage, Chinese Medicine, herbal remedies, and acupressure are just several of many complementary medicines.
People who practice complementary medicine believe in treating the physical, mental, and spiritual elements of wellness (a "holistic" approach) rather than focusing on treating symptoms of disease. This appeals to some people with chronic illnesses or those making lifestyle changes to maintain wellness. Keep in mind that some forms of complementary medicine are supported by scientific studies, while others are currently being evaluated for their safety and effectiveness.
What is the difference between "complementary" and "alternative" medicine?
Alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine – for example, using St. John's wort (a herbal remedy) for mild-to-moderate depression instead of conventional anti-depressant medications. Complementary medicine, however, is used in combination with conventional medicine – for example, using acupuncture and massage combined with pain relievers (for chronic pain), or using yoga and deep breathing combined with anxiety medications (for panic attacks).
The combination of conventional and complementary medicine is often called integrative medicine. This combination should be used on the advice of a physician and pharmacist, as there are some combinations of herbal products and traditional medications that can be dangerous.
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