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.