Complementary medicine (CM) (from the Latin. Complementum - supplement) is a general term for therapeutic and diagnostic practices, non-medical methods of treatment, and innovative developments, which are used as a supplement to official medical care. All areas of CM are widely demanded by people who want to improve the quality and longevity, as well as maintain and strengthen their health.
Tradition meets science
One of the most important problems of any society is how a person can organize measures to save their own health. A competently structured healthcare structure assumes that everyone can take advantage of various technologies, methods, practices of prevention and treatment. The medical system can’t be "police": everyone should have the right to choose and the correct understanding of what’s considered absolutely acceptable for treatment, and what’s acceptable or detrimental to health.
The development of personalized medicine offers a wide range of activities aimed at improving the entire body. The principle “to cure not a disease, but a patient” become practical today. This generated a wave of public interest in nontraditional treatment areas for the country. In this regard, various holistic and private health-improving technologies and practices are gaining momentum, which complement the official medical system.
In traditional medicine, the culture of health has always been part of the general culture of a person and includes upbringing, mentality, emotional state, diet, preventive support for a healthy mind and body. Official medicine builds an individual program to maintain physical and mental health, taking into account the heredity and susceptibility to diseases. Complementary medicine combined traditional and officially recognized approaches. And although it hasn’t received worldwide official status yet, its methods, based on previous experience in the practical application of therapeutic and prophylactic agents, are quickly gaining popularity. According to WHO estimates, over 100 million Europeans use CM services, one fifth of whom are its regular customers.
Today, centers of complementary medicine actively work and - most importantly - are in constant contact with official medical organizations, they’re widely distributed in many large cities of developed countries. In particular, the oldest and largest of them are the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the USA and The Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine in England.
The approaches of institutions are quite diverse and include methods, practices and systems of recovery, such as herbalism, hypnotherapy, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Mongolian, Tibetan, Japanese traditional medicine and much more.
In addition to methods established in cultural traditions, the CM register includes innovative medical technologies, which for various reasons only collect their evidence base: these are bioresonance diagnostics and therapy, mono and multimodal technologies, magnetic therapy, registration of background and induced emissions of biological objects and others. Such technologies involve the use of various devices that can affect the functioning of the body - from the correction of biological rhythms and elimination of toxins to the treatment of serious diseases.
Special attention should be paid to completely new areas of complementary medicine, such as gel therapy (where the therapeutic properties of laughter are studied) and various types of art therapy (bibliotherapy, isotherapy, music therapy, dramatherapy, puppet therapy, sand therapy, etc.). Such methods mainly have psycho-emotional impact and can serve as an expressive discharge.
Yet, some technologies and methods of complementary medicine aren’t universally recognized and permitted by public health. For example, in Russia, magnetotherapy procedures are recognized at the state level and are used in hospitals, while in the USA they have a controversial status (the FDA prohibits the sale of magnetic devices as medical devices).
Very often, instead of the term “complementary” (additional), the notion of “alternative” (opposing) is mistakenly used. But don’t mix them up: complementary medicine is considered together with the official approaches, the alternative - instead of the standard generally accepted procedures.
Complementary Medicine: Pros and Cons
Studies have shown that 46% of the surveyed doctors "experience psychological stress" if they see the patient's desire to seek help from CM specialists. Where does this skepticism come from?
The fact is, scientists note, that the methods of complementary medicine can carry a variety of consequences, since information about the safety of the use of a particular technology isn’t enough. Many doctors consider most of the directions theoretically unfounded, pseudoscientific, and their effectiveness is unproved. So, some directly share evidence-based medicine and supplementary. There’s a risk that a person, resorting to unconventional methods of treatment, can avoid recourse to professionals or do it later than they should. Plays a role and own lack of awareness of doctors about the means and methods of CM, their effectiveness and safety.
Although some people are of the opinion that there’s no evidence, yet it doesn’t mean that they ar. Scientists are looking for scientific justification of the methodologies of complementary medicine. In the framework of the Cochrane collaboration since 1996 assigned a special program designed to solve the problems of complementary medicine from the standpoint of evidence-based medicine. To date, the amount of data on CM, collected by the Cochrane includes 1211 reviews. As a result of biochemical, physiological and psychological research in relation to some CM techniques has been proven a number of positive effects. For example, yoga and meditation can reduce stress and ease symptoms of depression, qigong practice can have a positive effect on insomnia, obesity and back pain, and nanoscale magnets — reduce or completely remove cancerous tumors. Similar studies showing a beneficial effect of complementary methods to physical and mental health, a large number, but the information about what molecular mechanisms lie at the basis of this health effect, remain at the level of hypotheses.
Besides a large number of medical colleges began to teach their students on CM issues: they formed educational programs in a number of sections, introduced postgraduate courses. Acupuncture, naturopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, and other areas of complementary medicine have appeared around the world. The right to use the methods have only specially trained people who have professional medical education and have undergone postgraduate training.
Modern standards of official medicine suggest the predominant use of pharmacological agents, sometimes expensive, having adverse side effects, and sometimes not at all having medicinal properties. Therefore, the interest of people to the approaches of CM is understandable: the means and methods here are represented mainly by drug-free treatment-and-prophylactic technologies and preparations of natural origin. Also, the advantage of CM can be considered that the procedures can cost less and have fewer side effects than standard treatment.
Today, the boundaries between conventional and complementary medicine are blurring. And to take advantage of all existing opportunities for the prolongation of life, the healing of diseases, the maintenance of oneself in a healthy and harmonious state is an exclusive human right.