Complementary & Alternative Wellness
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has never been more popular. Nearly 40% of adults report using complementary and alternative therapies. Doctors are embracing CAM therapies, too, often combining them with mainstream medical therapies — spawning the term "integrative medicine."
Complementary and alternative medicine therapies fall into five major categories, or domains:
The holistic approach to recovery addresses one of the most effective principles of treatment, which is to treat the entire person as a whole entity, rather than focusing only on the drug or alcohol addiction and the disease symptoms. In terms of practical reasons, addiction experts list a number of examples of how to treat an entire person’s condition – addressing legal problems, vocational issues and any psychological or medical situations that may be present – when an individual receives treatment.
When an individual has been suffering from addiction, they experience changes in the brain and the body that can cause them to feel as though they simply cannot exist without the drugs to which they have become addicted. This compulsion to abuse drugs is part of the diagnostic criteria for addiction. The disease causes some individuals to seemingly choose drug use over actions that, to a reasonable person, would seem far less important.
This can cause serious difficulties in a person’s life. If they do not go to work consistently, they can lose their job. If they do not parent effectively, the authorities can remove their children from their home. If they fail to participate in events, they may find that their friendships and other established relationships suffer.
Recovering from drug addiction is far more than simply making the effort to not abuse drugs or alcohol. Living in recovery can often mean changing every aspect of your life, from your associations and unhealthy relationships to learning how to manage pain or stress without the abuse of medications or illegal substances. The holistic approach to recovery provides recovering individuals with a toolbox of skills they can call on to help them overcome the challenges they will face every day.
1. Alternative Medical Systems
A system isn't just a single practice or remedy — such as massage — but many practices that center on a philosophy, such as the power of nature or the presence of energy in your body. Examples of whole medical systems include:
Ancient healing systems. These healing systems arose long before conventional Western medicine and include ayurveda from India and traditional Chinese medicine.
Homeopathy. This approach uses minute doses of a substance that cause symptoms to stimulate the body's self-healing response.
Naturopathy. This approach focuses on noninvasive treatments to help your body do its own healing and uses a variety of practices, such as massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies, exercise and lifestyle counseling.
2. Mind-Body Therapy
Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. Some techniques that were considered CAM in the past have become mainstream (for example, patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy).
Other mind-body techniques are still considered CAM, including guided meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.
Mind-body techniques strengthen the communication between your mind and your body. CAM practitioners say these two systems must be in harmony for you to achieve wellness.
3. Biologically Based Therapies
Examples include dietary supplements, essential oils and herbal remedies. These treatments use ingredients found in nature.
Examples of herbs include ginseng, ginkgo, echinacea and cannabis.
Examples of other dietary supplements include selenium, spirulina, glucosamine sulfate and SAMe.
Herbs and supplements can be taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules.
4. Manipulative & Body-Based Therapy
Manipulative and body-based methods in CAM are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include chiropractic treatments, osteopathic manipulation, myofascial release, massage therapy, tai chi, and yoga.
5. Energy Therapies
CAM practitioners believe an invisible energy force flows through your body, and when this energy flow is blocked or unbalanced you can become sick.
Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields. There are two types:
Biofield therapies are intended to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body. The existence of such fields has not yet been scientifically proven. Some forms of energy therapy manipulate biofields by applying pressure and/or manipulating the body by placing the hands in, or through, these fields. Examples include qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch.
Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involve the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating-current or direct-current fields.
Different traditions call this energy by different names, such as chi, prana and life force. The goal of these therapies is to unblock or re-balance your energy force.