Complementary & Alternative Therapies

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Complementary & Alternative Therapies


Acupuncture and oriental medicine

Acupuncture, Tai Chi, herbal formulas, massage and manipulation (Tui Na), diet, acupotomy, external & internal Qi Gong.

Alternative medical systems

Complete systems of theory and practice that have been developed outside of the Western biomedical approach. It is divided into four subcategories: Acupuncture and Oriental medicine; Traditional Indigenous systems; unconventional Western systems; naturopathy.

Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine is defined as any treatment (substance or modality) that is used by or prescribed to patients that is not a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pharmaceutical substance or device; FDA -approved substances or devices that are being used for indications and in doses not approved by the FDA for that agent or device. This definition addresses the legitimating power of the FDA and the process by which drugs are approved.

Art therapy

As a form of psychotherapy, is an interdisciplinary practice across health and medicine, using various visual art forms such as drawing, painting, sculpture and collage.


Bioelectromagnetics refers to the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields for medical purposes.


Biofield medicine involves systems that use subtle energy fields in and around the body for medical purposes.

Biologically-based therapies

Natural and biologically-based practices, interventions, and products. Many overlap with conventional medicine’s use of dietary supplements. Includes four types of therapies--phytotherapy or herbalism; special diet therapies; orthomolecular medicine; pharmacological, biological and instrumental interventions.

Clinical preventative practices

Unconventional approaches used to screen for and prevent health-related imbalances, dysfunction and disease.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. CAM therapies are treatments and healthcare practices that do not form part of the dominant healthcare management paradigm (e.g., not approved by the Food and Drug Administration; not routinely taught in conventional medical schools; are used 'off-label' from FDA recommendations(e.g., different dosage, disease or condition differing from the FDA approval, etc.; or are not covered by most insurance policies). Therapies used alone are often referred to as alternative, and when in combination with other alternative therapies, or in addition to conventional therapies they are often referred to as complementary.

Complementary medicine

Alternative therapies are sometimes also termed complementary. There are subtle differences in the meaning of these terms. Most complementary practitioners in the United States, whatever their training, view their work as additional to conventional therapies, not in competition to them.

Complementary methods

Methods applied by conventionally trained physicians and health care providers are based on tradition, or the perspective of the human arts, which are not investigated or taught at universities.


A mind-body intervention aimed at easing stress, and promoting a sense of peace and tranquillity at a stressful or difficult time in someone's life.

Health promotion

Involves laboratory and epidemiological research on healing, the healing process, health promoting factors, and autoregulatory mechanisms that forms the basis for health messages to the public.

Lifestyle therapies

This subcategory deals with complete systems of lifestyle management that include behavioral changes, dietary changes, exercise, stress management, and addiction control. To be classified as CAM, the changes in lifestyle must be based on a nonorthodox system of medicine, be applied in unconventional ways, or be applied across non-Western diagnostic. Approaches

Manipulative and body-based systems

This category refers to systems that are based on manipulation, movement of the body or both, and is divided into three subcategories: chiropractic medicine; massage and body work; unconventional physical therapies.

Mind-body medicine

Mind-body medicine involves behavioral, psychological, social, and spiritual approaches to health. It is divided into four subcategories: mind-body systems; mind-body methods; religion and spirituality; social and contextual areas.

Mind-body methods

Individual modalities used in mind-body approaches to health. These approaches are often considered conventional practice and overlap with CAM only when applied to medical conditions for which they are not usually used (for example, hypnosis for genetic problems). e.g.,

CAM: Yoga, Internal Qigong, Tai Chi.

Behavioral Medicine (BM): Psychotherapy, Meditation, Imagery, Hypnosis, Biofeedback, Support groups.

Overlapping CAM/BM: Art therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy, Journaling, Humor, Body psychotherapy.

Mind-body systems

This subcategory involves whole systems of mind-body practice that are used largely as primary interventions for disease. They are rarely delivered alone; instead, they are used in combination with lifestyle interventions, or are part of a traditional medical system.

Music therapy

Prescribed use of music and musical interventions in order to restore, maintain, and improve emotional, physical, physiological, and spiritual health and well-being.


This subcategory is an eclectic collection of natural systems and therapies that has gained prominence in the United States.

Orthomolecular medicine

This subcategory refers to products used as nutritional and food supplements (and not covered in other categories). These products are used for preventive or therapeutic purposes. They are usually used in combinations and at high doses. Examples include niacinamide for arthritis and melatonin to prevent breast cancer.

Pharmacological and instrumental interventions

This subcategory includes products and procedures applied in an unconventional manner that are not covered in other categories.

Phytotherapy or herbalism

This subcategory addresses plant-derived preparations that are used for therapeutic and preventive purposes.

Religion and Spirituality

This subcategory deals with those non-behavioral aspects of spirituality and religion that examine their relationship to biological function or clinical conditions.

e.g., Confession, Soul Retrieval, Nonlocality, Spiritual Healing, Nontemporality, Special Healers

Social and contextual areas

This subcategory refers to social, cultural, symbolic, and contextual interventions that are not covered in other areas. e.g.,

CAM: Caring-based Approaches (for example, Holistic Nursing, Pastoral Care), Intuitive Diagnosis

Overlapping: Placebo, Explanatory Models, Community-based Approaches (for example, Alcoholics Anonymous, Native American sweat rituals).


Something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such; sensitivity or attachment to religious values; the quality or state of being spiritual. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2001.

Traditional indigenous systems

This subcategory includes major indigenous systems of medicine other than acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine. Native American Medicine, Traditional Aboriginal, Ayurvedic Medicine, Unani-Tibbi, SDDHI, Curanderismo, Kampo Medicine, Central and South American, Traditional African Medicine, Psychic Surgery.

Unconventional Western systems

This subcategory includes alternative medical systems developed in the West that are not classified elsewhere. CAM: Homeopathy, Functional Medicine, Environmental Medicine, Radiesthesia, Psionic Medicine, Cayce-based Systems, Kneipp “classical”, Orthomolecular Medicine, Radionics. Overlapping: Anthroposophically-extended Medicine


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