It never fails, you have a whole list of questions ready to ask your doctor and inevitably it seems you end up more things to ask after your visit. How does that work? Does it seem that the 15-minute office visit has turned into 3? With so much to cover in such a short amount of time more and more people are thinking outside the box. With the ability to be more involved in self-care as well as to seek other ways to treat the body, more and more people are turning to alternative health care. According to Dr. David Eisenber, a Harvard Medical School researcher found that roughly 4 in 10 Americans use at least one type of alternative therapy, with popularity rising. Why is this statistic growing? The answer – more people are turning to preventative care and focusing on whole-body wellness. The entire body works together so why not treat it as one to allow it to function at an optimal level?

The truth of the matter is that some of the alternative therapies used today have been around for several hundreds if not thousands of years. Over the next several weeks lets take a closer look at various alternative therapies across the world while gaining insight on what each one has to offer.

Alternative therapy or Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a group of health care systems that aren’t typically included in the scope of traditional medical care. Rather than focusing on reductionism where the goal is to break down each living atom or particle and study its interaction, often seen in traditional medicine, a holistic approach is taken in CAM. The mind, emotion, spirit and body are all connected and function as a whole. In other words, a change in one part of the body can be reflected in others.

Some of the fundamental beliefs of CAM are:

• Health is characterized by achieving balance between the body, mind, and spirit
• Illness manifests when there is a disharmony within the body
• The body is capable of healing itself and involves the body, mind, and spirit

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is an agency set in place to research CAM practices. They group alternative therapies into 5 major domains or categories. Within each domain, several therapies exist. These therapies will be covered in greater detail over the next several weeks, but all are used to prevent, control or treat symptoms.

The 5 CAM Domains:

Whole Medical Systems
Typically developed independently from conventional medicine, with many practiced by individual cultures around the world.

Biologically Based Practices
Whole diets, minerals, supplements, herbs, amino acids and more

Body-Based and Manipulative Practices
Joints, muscles, ligaments, lymphatic and circulatory systems

Energy Therapies
Magnetic and energetic fields that run throughout the body

Mind-Body Therapy
Focus on the mind’s ability to enhance the function of the body

The most common of these, when prayer is included, is the mind-body domain (53%) followed by biological based practices (22%).

With over 50% of the population seeking alternative therapies, mainstream medicine is embracing the use of CAM and other therapies. Thousands of years later, spanning across the world, CAM has been changing lives by viewing the body as a whole, focusing on the mind, body, and spirit connection to prevent disease to promote optimal healing. Maintaining and treating the body in a balanced manor can enhance one’s quality of life. So pack your bags and tour with me as we explore the different therapies found across the world!

Information about Complementary Alternative Medicine used in this post is found in Giordano, PH.D., Introduction To Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (Ann Arbor, MI, 2005), 20-23; Taylor, Lillis, LeMone, Lynn, Fundamentals of Nursing, (Philadelphia, 2008), 747-763.



DEFINE’s senior instructor and anatomy specialist, Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N. is a doctor in chiropractic and registered nurse. Her love for helping people through education about anatomy and physiology drives her to continue to share her experiences and knowledge with others as they pursue their journey towards health and restoration!