The terms complementary and alternative medicine are often used interchangeably, though technically they are actually different.
Complementary and alternative medicine refers to a range of practices that are outside the realm to western allopathic treatment - that is, as administered by MDs (medical doctor), physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) thus includes a diverse range of medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not considered part of conventional western medicine.
These can include:
- Applied Kinesiology
Turning to the differences between the two, they are usually defined thus:
- Complementary medicine : Often used alongside conventional medicine.
- Alternative medicine: Used in place of conventional medicine - for example, treating cancer with a special diet rather than the surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that a conventional doctor would recommend.
The main criticism of these practises is that their effectiveness and safety is not supported by scientific studies - interestingly, the same is true of many western (allopathic) practices, and the incidence of side effects and indeed death from western medical practices is far higher per patient treated than for CAM.
Ultimately it comes down to personal choice, based on your own philosophy, and in many ways that is the best thing that CAM offers patients - a choice.