What is the difference between complementary medicine and alternative medicine?
Healthcare choices can be overwhelming, to put it mildly. This is so for a variety of reasons. The type and structure of the medical insurance plan a family chooses calls competing concerns into play before we ever get to the point of making an appointment. What one plan may reasonably accommodate for one family member may not be at all adequate for another. Beyond this increasingly tangled issue, medical practices are increasingly specialized. No longer do we just make a doctor’s appointment. Today, we may start with a primary care physician (PCP), but the vast majority of time that is simply to get a referral for a specialist in whatever is thought to be our problem area.
That sounded almost like the primary care physician is relatively unimportant, which is not at all true. Your choice of PCP should reflect your values and belief system when it comes to how you view healing. Some people want a physician to tell them what needs to be done and just go ahead and do it. Others want to be intimately involved in each decision at every stage. Some folks have little interest in anything other than what is considered conventional medicine, as is practiced here in the U.S. Techniques that fall in the sphere of complementary medicine, which is typically based on ancient or Eastern healing arts are not believed to be scientific and, consequently, discounted. This, however, is changing at an increasingly rapid pace.
According to the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, in the U.S., growing numbers of people are choosing to look beyond mainstream medicine. In fact, more than 30 percent currently incorporate yoga, acupuncture or some other non-traditional technique in their healthcare.
Complementary Medicine Defined
To attach a definition to complementary medicine is tricky. Merriam-Webster says that it is something that is “not traditional”. This works depending on where you are at a particular moment in time. What is non-traditional in one part of the world is totally mainstream in another, and, what may be considered “way out there” here in the U. S., today, may well be the norm in the not so distant future. That said, for us, right now, complementary medicine refers to practices that have not been (until recently) taught in medical school and have not been considered a part of Western medicine but are now being used along with standard medical care or in cases where traditional methods have proven ineffective.
Some of the more common types of complementary medicine techniques include:
- Tai Chi
- Hypnotherapy/Guided Imagery
- PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) Therapy
- Dietary Supplements
Sometimes the terms “complementary medicine” and “alternative medicine” are used as if they are interchangeable. Technically, they should not be. Complementary means used along with or in addition to standard practices: alternative means used instead or in place of. One embraces the best of all options, and the other negates contributions that another technique or discipline might be able to offer. If for no other reason, this makes choosing that PCP and subsequent specialist very important.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort of any sort or have questions about any of our services, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here.