Complementary vs Alternative Medicine: What You Need To Know

Various treatments exist within the medical field and other treatments outside the medical mainstream. Complementary medicine and alternative medicine are examples of treatments outside the medical mainstream. Many people have taken complementary and alternative medicine to be identical even in standard medical practice and medical practice management.

A lot of people combine these different forms of medicine. Don’t get it wrong; these terms are grouped under complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Yet, these forms of treatment are different.  You will understand the definition of these treatments, the difference, the benefits, and the associated risks. This post will explain everything you need to know about complementary and alternative medicine.

Meaning of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Let’s start with the definition and meaning of complementary medicine.

What is Complementary Medicine?

Complement can be defined as something added to make something complete. Complementary medicine is a non-mainstream approach used jointly with conventional medicine. It could also be therapies complemented with traditional Western medicine.

There are four (4) major types of complementary approaches– manipulation and body-based practices, expressive therapies, energy force therapies, and mind-body techniques.

Let’s explain the two major approaches.

1. Manipulation and body-based practices

This is the first complementary approach. This approach includes:

Reflexology:  This approach entails the application of manual pressure to body areas that are believed to correspond to the body systems. This approach can relieve pain, nausea, and constipation.

Cupping: This massage therapy involves creating a vacuum on the skin via heated cups. Massage promotes relaxation through the body’s nerve endings and pressure points. This approach increases blood flow to targeted areas intending to reduce inflammation. There are different forms of massage, and they can be used to ease stress, reduce anxiety, control pain, boost mood, or promote healing. 

Complementary vs Alternative Medicine: What You Need To Know

Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation: This approach focuses on the joints and spines which connect to the nervous system. It is a hands-on approach that employs gentle pressure and resistance or stretching to move the body’s muscles and joints. It is also effective for menstrual pain and headaches.

2. Expressive therapies

This approach can help you monitor your thoughts and understand yourself, which are prominent factors for attaining positive mental well-being. This approach includes:

Support groups: This is a perfect platform to share your fears, concerns, and hopes. A support group consists of people who are experiencing a similar challenge.

Complementary vs Alternative Medicine: What You Need To Know

Journal writing: Expressing oneself might be difficult. Anyone can express feelings privately without fear of being misunderstood. Writing in a journal can ease the burden. Journal writing can help you clarify your thoughts and make good choices if performed regularly.

For medical practitioners, complementary medicine is an excellent way to offer more options in medical practice, which would automatically boost your medical practice revenue

Complementary medicine is also classified by how this approach or the therapy is delivered or received. It could be classified as:

  • Physical– for instance, spinal manipulation or massage
  • Psychological– for instance, mindfulness
  • Nutritional– for instance, probiotics, herbs, special diets, dietary supplements
  • Combinations, Examples of these combinations are nutritional and psychological– for instance, mindful eating

What is Alternative medicine?

Alternative medicine is a non-mainstream approach that is used instead of conventional medicine. Examples of alternative medicine include yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and meditation.

Complementary vs Alternative Medicine: What You Need To Know

Difference Between Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine

Complementary medicine is not considered standard, although it is employed along with standard medical treatment. Acupuncture, for example, can help lessen specific side effects during cancer treatment. Although acupuncture is not a standard medical treatment, it is jointly used with standard medical treatment.

Complementary vs Alternative Medicine: What You Need To Know

Alternative medicine can be employed in place of standard medical treatment. For instance, alternative medicine professionals can use a special diet plan to treat cancer in place of standard medical treatment for cancer, such as cancer drugs prescribed by an oncologist. 

Benefits of CAM

There are a lot of benefits to CAM. You don’t need to be sick before you can enjoy the benefits of CAM. Some CAM procedures and therapies have been thoroughly, carefully evaluated, and reported to be effective, beneficial, and safe. Notwithstanding, we advise you to make an appointment with your doctor before you undergo or partake in any CAM. 

Yoga has been proven to ease pain, and reduce blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, and depression. Acupuncture can help with side effects of cancer treatments such as nausea and fatigue. Acupuncture is effective in treating and fighting chronic pain, neck pain, and lower back pain. It is an excellent treatment choice for diverse types of headaches and pain from arthritis. Meanwhile, other CAM approaches have not been evaluated.

People respond to medical products or medical practices in diverse ways. Some CAM approaches may be harmful to some people, some approaches do not work effectively, and there is a possibility that some CAM approaches could negatively interact with standard medicines.

In general, the benefits you can enjoy from CAM are:

  • Pain management or pain relief.
  • Pain reduction.
  • Improve the healing process.
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces nausea
  • Reduces stress
  • Tiredness decrease.
  • Enhances flexibility and circulation.
  • Boost relaxation.
  • Improves mood.
  • Alleviate muscle tension.
  • Encourages feelings of inner peace, happiness, security, positivity, well-being, and pleasure. 

Medical practitioners can also offer CAM treatments to patients using modern medical billing software, an effective way to manage schedules and billings. Client data collection, appointment scheduling, billing and claims processing, and report would be simple and manageable. 


Complementary and Alternative Medicine might not provide an effective treatment for specific ailments, and if it is used as a treatment, there are potential side effects. However, it could be life-threatening if alternative medicine is used instead of traditional medicine. This is similar to herbs which could have potential side effects. We believe you know the difference, benefits, and risks. 

Although there is really no area of medicine that can be said to be completely risk-free; it is important that you remember to approach your doctor before partaking in any of these non-mainstream approaches. Their risks are subtle but could be painful and fatal. Learning any of these methods and approaches must also be done under proper guidance and in accordance with the governing medical laws of your state.

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