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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Part 2 of 2.


Although CAM does have some proven benefits, like anything, it has its limitations.

Experts haven't researched many CAM techniques enough to tell how effective they are as treatments. Some people may not feel it's worth investing a lot of time or money in treatments that haven't been proven effective. Insurance policies rarely cover CAM treatments, so people have to pay for them out of their own pockets with no reimbursement.

For some health problems, alternative healing approaches on their own may not be enough to help a person get well. Even something as seemingly minor as an infection may need treatment with traditional medications, like antibiotics. That's why it's always best to see your doctor if you have a health problem and talk openly about any CAM techniques you might want to try.

Another reason you should be up-front with your doctor about CAM techniques is because, in some cases, CAM practices can actually interfere with traditional medical treatments. For example, certain herbal supplements can interfere with some prescription drugs, such as diabetes treatments or birth-control pills.

As with modern medicine, CAM treatments that are effective for one problem will not help with all problems. For example, acupuncture has been proven to help reduce migraines for people under 18 years old, but is controversial as to whether is helps in other situations. Certain treatments are only used for certain problems, so if you want to try an alternative practice for a health reason, make sure it will help the specific problem you're looking to correct.

Before You Try It

Traditional medical doctors are not only trained, they're licensed. But that's not always the case with CAM practitioners. Some states have licensing requirements for certain specialists, like acupuncturists and massage therapists, and many are expanding their requirements for licensing as CAM practices grow in popularity.

Finding a good CAM practitioner is still not as easy as looking someone up in a phone book. NCCAM recommends asking another health care provider for a referral, talking to people who have been treated by the expert you are considering, and meeting with the practitioner to ask about his or her experience and training - the same kinds of things you'd do if you were interviewing a new doctor.

You may have already used a complementary or alternative practice, like yoga or massage, and not even thought about it! Trying practices like meditation and breathing can't do any harm, but other CAM techniques may have consequences for people with certain health conditions. Even the more mainstream practices like yoga can hurt someone with a health condition - like a back problem - if they are not done properly. So check with your doctor before trying any CAM techniques. Your doctor will try to guide you on which practices you can safely try while continuing with your current method of treatment.

Please click here for Part 1