Dr. Joseph M. Perlman Advanced Plastic Surgery Centre


I recently read an article by Dr. Adam Perlman (no relation). He is the director of the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. It’s interesting how alternative medicine has made inroads into medical treatment in the United States. The study done in 1990 by physicians at Harvard, revealed that almost 40% of the U.S. population had used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). That number increased by 25% over the next decade and continues to increase. There were over 700,000,000 visits to complementary medicine providers in 2000. In addition, patients who visit CAM providers spend $27 billion out of pocket, because many of these treatments aren’t covered by their insurance plans.

CAM deals with the concept of wellness, both physical and spiritual, being essential to a patient’s overall health. What was once called holistic medicine is now being called integrative medicine, because it combines the technology and expertise of conventional medicine with the healing powers and wisdom of complementary therapies, according to Dr. Perlman’s article. The integrative approach looks beyond the symptoms of disease status and considers the whole person so that one can stimulate the body’s natural healing potential.

The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland has established a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to further study this aspect of medicine.

Within the NCCAM there are four domains: mind-body medicine (i.e. meditation), biologically based practices (i.e. nutritional therapy), manipulative medicine (i.e. chiropractic), energy medicine (i.e. acupuncture), biomagnetic fields, and vibrational medicine.

We are seeing more major universities and medical centers looking into the value of integrating complementary and alternative medicine into traditional Western practices. Insurance companies, in many states, are now covering procedures such as biofeedback and acupuncture as well as chiropractic.

We all have heard stories or have personally experienced the power of the will and spirit to help heal us physically. Though it is something that Eastern cultures, particularly the Indian and Chinese, have practiced for thousands of years, it becomes more relevant in today’s modern society, especially in dealing with stress-related illnesses. It’s a sad but well-known fact that people who have lost their jobs become more stressed and the rate of heart attack and other illnesses is significantly higher for them than those who are still working. Whether complementary medicine will be part of the new healthcare plan is still unknown, but we should take a serious look at incorporating it into our overall health and wellness future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to a diverse range of medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not typically considered part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used alongside conventional treatments, while alternative medicine is used in place of them. CAM encompasses various approaches and therapies, often focusing on holistic and natural treatments.

CAM has gained significant popularity in the US. Surveys indicate that a substantial portion of the population uses some form of CAM. For instance, a report from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) revealed that about 38% of adults and 12% of children in the US have used CAM therapies. The growing interest in CAM reflects a broader trend towards holistic health and wellness.

What is the Philosophy Behind CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)?

The philosophy behind CAM is based on a holistic approach to health and wellness. It emphasizes the integration of mind, body, and spirit in the healing process. CAM practices often focus on prevention and the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Key principles include:

  • Individualized Treatment: Tailoring treatments to the unique needs of each person.
  • Holistic Care: Considering the whole person, including physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects.
  • Natural Healing: Using natural substances and techniques to promote health.
  • Prevention: Emphasizing lifestyle changes and preventive measures to maintain health.
What are some Examples of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) Practices?

There are numerous CAM practices, including but not limited to:

  • Acupuncture: A traditional Chinese medicine practice involving the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to balance energy flow.
  • Chiropractic Care: Focuses on diagnosing and treating mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine.
  • Herbal Medicine: Using plant-based substances for their therapeutic properties.
  • Homeopathy: A system of medicine based on the principle of “like cures like,” using highly diluted substances.
  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Practices that focus on calming the mind and enhancing awareness.
  • Yoga: A practice combining physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation.
  • Massage Therapy: Manipulation of soft tissues to enhance health and well-being.
  • Reiki: A form of energy healing where practitioners use their hands to transfer energy to the patient to promote healing.
How is CAM Viewed by Traditional Medicine?

The relationship between CAM and traditional (conventional) medicine can be complex. Some healthcare professionals are supportive of integrating CAM practices with conventional treatments, especially when there is evidence of their effectiveness and safety. However, others are skeptical due to the lack of rigorous scientific research supporting many CAM therapies. The acceptance of CAM varies among medical practitioners, with a growing trend towards integrative medicine, which combines conventional and CAM approaches to offer a more comprehensive treatment plan.