Exact Definition Of CAM
Alternative medicines therapeutic disciplines which were either included in the Committee's Call for Evidence or from whom evidence was received are listed below.
The list is not intended to be all-inclusive but rather it is an attempt to provide an indication and framework of the main types of therapy we have considered without attempting to resolve the difficulties inherent in formulating an exact definition of CAM.
The Committee was happy to receive evidence from representatives of any therapy or discipline that considered itself to be either complementary or alternative to mainstream medicine
. Broadly, in the opinion of the Committee, these therapies and disciplines fall into three broad groups:
The first group embraces what may be called the principal disciplines, two of which, osteopathy and chiropractic, are already regulated in their professional activity and education by Acts of Parliament. The others are acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy. Our evidence has indicated that each of these therapies claim to have an individual diagnostic approach and that these therapies are seen as the 'Big 5' by most of the CAM world.
Complement Conventional Medicine
The second group contains therapies which are most often used to complement conventional medicine and do not purport to embrace diagnostic skills. It includes aromatherapy; the Alexander Technique; body work therapies, including massage;counseling; stress therapy; hypnotherapy; reflexology and probably shiatsu; meditation and healing.
The third group embraces those other disciplines which purport to offer diagnostic information as well as treatment and which, in general, favor a philosophical approach and are indifferent to the scientific principles of conventional medicine, and through which various and disparate frameworks of disease causation and its management are proposed. These therapies can be split into two sub-groups.
Traditional Systems Of Healthcare
Group 3a includes long-established and traditional systems of healthcare such as Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine. Group 3b covers other alternative disciplines which lack any credible evidence base such as crystal therapy, iridology, radionics, dowsing and kinesiology.
Professionally Organised Alternative Therapies
Acupuncture — Originating from China, acupuncture involves inserting small needles into various points in the body to stimulate nerve impulses. Traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on the idea of 'qi' (vital energy) which is said to travel around the body along 'meridians' which the acupuncture points affect. Western Acupuncture uses the same needling technique but is based on affecting nerve impulses and the central nervous system; acupuncture may be used in the West as ananesthetic agent and also as an analgesic.
Used almost entirely to treat musculo-skeletal complaints through adjusting muscles, tendons and joints and using manipulation and massage techniques. Diagnostic procedures include case histories, conventional clinical examination and x-rays. Chiropractic was originally based on the idea that 'reduced nerve flow' led to disease.
A system of medicine which uses various remedies derived from plants and plant extracts
to treat disorders and maintain good health. Another term for this type of treatment is physiotherapy.
A therapy based on the theory of treating like with like. Homeopathic remedies use highly diluted substances that if given in higher doses to a healthy person would produce the symptoms that the dilutions are being given to treat. In assessing the patient homeopaths often take into account a range of physical, emotional and lifestyle factors which contribute to the diagnosis.
A system of diagnosis and treatment, usually by manipulation, that mainly focuses on musculo-skeletal problems, but a few schools claim benefits across a wider spectrum of disorders. Historically differs from chiropractic in its underlying theory that it is impairment of blood supply and not nerve supply that leads to problems. However in practice there is less difference than might be assumed.
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