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Conventional Medicine versus Alternative Medicine

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“The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has defined AM as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine” (Ventola, 2010). When conventional medicine is discussed, few to no controversies exist. But when alternative medicine is discussed, there seems to be a lot of controversy over the use of modern medicine. Patients believe that alternative treatments are dangerous, a joke, or an act of some criminal activity. When CAM and conventional medicine are compared, there are many differences but one of the biggest is the evidence of lack thereof, that CAM actually works to improve a patient’s well-being. It’s a risk a patient takes when deciding the type of treatment that is best for their well-being. With the lack of evidence, the CAM treatment can’t be proved one way or the other. It might work, it might not. Anecdotal is then what is mostly relied on.

This creates even more issues because conventional doctors have a difficult time believing this is enough evidence to prove a CAM treatment works. Alternative Medicine refers to practices based on theories of health and healing emphasizing “safe” or “natural” therapies focusing on the emotional and spiritual aspect of health. This form of medicine does not rely of facts and this is what causes many conflicts. Complementary medicine is any of a range of medical therapies that fall beyond the scope of scientific medicine but may be used alongside it in the treatment of disease and ill health. Some examples are acupuncture and osteopathy. Integrative medicine is said to be healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.

“A distinct trend toward the integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies with the practice of conventional medicine is occurring” (Complimentary & Alternative Medicine in the United States, 2005). Now hospitals along with HMOs are offering and covering CAM treatments. Physicians are also using CAM therapies in their practices. Alternative medicine is used in replace of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used as a “complement” or an addition to using conventional medicine. Complementary medicine can be integrated with conventional treatment making it integrative medicine. Integrative medicine focuses on the whole person and uses therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and healing. Conventional treatments are combined with selected CAM treatments that have shown to be effective and safe.

Conventional medicine is based on a model of disease, and integrative medicine favors the use of low-tech cost saving treatments. It does not eliminate the use of conventional medicine, but incorporates it into the wellness plan. According to the NCCAM website, complementary health approaches is what is focused on. These complementary health approaches fall into two subgroups – natural products or mind and body products (Complementary, Alternative or Integrative Health: What’s in a Name, 2008). NCCAM discusses domains of therapies otherwise known as “mind and body practices”. They include: Acupuncture – stimulation of certain parts of the bodies with needles. Massage Therapy – different types of body massages are used to manipulate the soft tissue of the body. Meditation – includes ways in which a person learns to focus on their attention. Movement Therapies – such as yoga, Pilates.

Relaxation Therapies – such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation. Spinal Manipulation – practiced by chiropractors, physical therapists to manipulate the spine using their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine. Tai Chi & Qi Gong – traditional Chinese medicine practices that combine specific movements or postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus. Meditation is one of the CAM treatments according to the NCCAM website. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a type of meditation, shows some promise as a Complementary approach to improve quality of life (QOL) and decrease perceived stress in perceived stress in people with ulcerative colitis” (Hoffman, 2014). Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that has no cure and is subject to flare-ups, which may be caused by stress (Hoffman, 2014).

It has been said that alternative treatment are needed to help prevent and manage the flare-ups. Patients with Ulcerative colitis do not always adhere to, nor obtain relief from prescribed medicines. A random controlled study of patients who were in remission from moderately severe ulcerative colitis had at least one flare-up in the preceding 6 months. The study showed that those patients who used MBSR, it was shown to be more effective in lowering perceived stress and in preventing the characteristic drop in quality of life. Researchers concluded that the use of MBSR showed a decrease in flare-ups in those with heightened stress responses. In a patient who suffers from Ulcerative colitis and chooses to use an alternative treatment, they are choosing to negate all conventional methods, and only use the alternative approach of meditation.

When choosing to use complementary medicine, a patient is choosing to use medications to help flare-ups, as well as alternative treatments such as meditation. Integrative medicine in relationship to Ulcerative colitis, a patient chooses to use medication during the actual process of the type of meditation they chose. Complementary and integrative are really the same when compared to this study of Ulcerative colitis and meditation. CAM treatment has increased over the years and has been said that it stems from the success of conventional medicine. People use CAM for a variety of reasons and are becoming more and more interested in this approach to treatments. Cultural influences have attracted many patients to alternative therapies. Many can benefit from the use of alternative medicine if they are willing to go in with an open mind and see all the possibilities that the treatment could offer.

Ventola, L. (2010). Current Issues Regarding Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s in a name?. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.mccam.nih.gov. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. (2005). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Hoffman, J. (2014). Mindfulness May Be Helpful for People With Ulcerative Colitis. Retrieved from http://www.nccam.nih.gov.

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