Alternative and complementary medicine is becoming more popular among consumers and prescribed more by health care professionals. Alternative medicine can be traced back thousands of years, however, it wasn't introduced to the United States until the early 1900s. Alternative medicine encompasses a wide range of therapies including homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, massage and bodywork therapy, meditation, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies. Understanding the background and benefits of these alternatives is important to all health care professionals.
EVIDENCE IS mounting that conventional medicine does not offer all the answers to preventing illness and curing disease. World Development Indicators shows that the U.S. life expectancy rate was only 21st and the U.S. infant mortality rate ranked 27th of other nations studied. 1 The U.S. spends more dollars on health care than other nations and has failed to be one of the leaders in actually providing a healthier quality of life. This fact has opened the door for alternative or complementary medicine (CAM) to be utilized and researched. According to the National Library of Medicine, the terms “complementary medicine” and “alternative medicine” are used interchangeably. In Mosby's Medical, Nursing, & Allied Health Dictionary, alternative medicine is defined as “any of the systems of medical diagnosis and treatment differing in technique from that of the allopathic practitioner's use of drugs and surgery to treat disease and injury.” During 1997, consumers spent between $4 billion and $6 billion on visits to massage therapists, making up approximately 27 percent of the $21.2 billion spent on CAM, and demand continues to increase. 2 In a 1998 Newsday Magazine article, it was reported that from 1990 to 1997, there was a 380 percent increase in vitamin usage and a 130 percent increase in the use of herbal supplements. 3 These percentages are staggering. The validity of alternative medicine is increasing throughout the medical industry as consumers experiment and demand options to conventional medicine. This has been a long, hard battle for some of the alternative therapies.
Center for Energy Medicine, Raleigh, North Carolina (Bodane)
President, Adult Education Resource, New Castle, Delaware (Brownson)