Complementary and alternative drugs and treatments (CAM) are a group of medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be a part of conventional medicine in the United States. CAM may be used to try to slow disease progression or eliminate the disease altogether, for symptom management, pain relief, or stimulation of the immune system. CAM treatments usually include affectionate care and often have a spiritual reinforcement.
Since no complementary medicine has been proved to cure disease, only use a CAM drug or treatment in addition to western scientific based medicine - not instead of western based medicine.
The combination of complementary and Western medicine is known as "integrative medicine."
When prescribed by a doctor, CAM treatments may be covered by your health insurance.
- If the treatment you are considering is covered, see Questions To Ask Your Insurer Before Starting A Complementary Treatment
- If the treatment is not covered, it is worth taking a few minutes to find out if there is a law in your state that requires coverage of some or all complementary treatments. Either contact your state insurance commission (you can find contact information through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners) or the group that represents the treatment practitioners. (If paying is an issue, see How To Deal With A Financial Crunch
Complementary treatments include the following. For information about each treatment of interest, click on the link. To return to this document, click the back button on your browser.
- Art Therapy
- Chiropractic treatment
- Massage Therapy
- Mind/Body medicine
- Music Therapy
- Nutrition Therapy
- T'ai Chi
What To Do Before Choosing Or Using A Complementary Treatment
- Complementary treatments are not subject to FDA approval so you are on your own about whether they are effective and safe. Learn about what scientific proof may exist with respect to usefulness of the drug or treatment for the intended purpose, as well as the risks.
- Watch for fraud and people who are more interested in taking your money than helping you. To learn how, click here.
- For a list of:
- As a general matter, it is important to tell your doctor everything you do that could affect your health, including supplements and over-the counter drugs. Even a vitamin or herb may interfere with a treatment. Something that may have been helpful pre-diagnosis, may be harmful now. Before starting a complementary treatment, discuss the idea with your doctor.
- There could be a dangerous interaction with a drug or treatment you're using, particularly with some herbs.
- The doctor may have some light to shed on the particular drug or treatment you're considering, or have a recommendation that may be better for your situation.
- If your doctor says "no":
- Ask why.
- Ask about other options that may be available to accomplish the same goal as the drug or treatment you're considering.
- Ifyou are not satisfied with the doctor's response, particularly if you feel the doctor is closed minded about complementary treatments, consider seeking a second opinion from a doctor who is more open to complementary treatments.
- Keep in mind that no alternative treatment has been proved to cure a life threatning condition.
- Check your health insurance. A complementary drug or treatment may be covered. More and more health insurance cover complementary drugs and treatments..
- If your insurer asks for proof about the effectiveness of a treatment you want to use:
- Ask the practitioner for proof she or he may have
- Check for research papers on the web site of the National Center for Complementary And Alternative Medicine
- Whether a particular treatmentis covered by your insurance or not, keep records of all your payments for such treatments including the cost of travel to and from. The expenses may be tax deductible as medical expenses. For more information, click here.