Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the popular name for health care practices that traditionally have not been part of conventional medicine. In many cases, as evidence of efficacy and safety grows, these therapies are being combined with conventional medicine.
Thus, the term alternative has been dropped and replaced with newer terms, such as complementary and integrative medicine, integrative medicine and health, or just integrative medicine.
Why it's done
Integrative medicine can help people with cancer, persistent pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and many other conditions better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life by reducing fatigue, pain and anxiety. Examples of common practices include:
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Dietary supplements
- Massage therapy
- Music therapy
The treatments promoted in integrative medicine are not substitutes for conventional medical care. They should be used in concert with standard medical treatment.
Certain therapies and products are not recommended at all or not recommended for certain conditions or people. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is a good tool for researching a therapy you're considering. It's also important to talk with your health care provider before trying something new.
Content Last Updated: June 19, 2020