Complementary and Alternative Medicine, known as CAM, is a discipline of medicine that's getting increasingly mainstream. Complementary Medicine is used alongside traditional medicine to enhance a patient's' experience. For example, in combination with a surgery, a complementary medicine could be practicing meditation to prepare the mind and body for a state of calm. Alternative Medicine is used in place of traditional medicine, and some of the most widely used examples include acupuncture, homeopathy, and biofeedback.
There are several benefits to CAM, but the limitations lie in restricted research opportunities. CAM harnesses the powers of the body and mind to be self-healing agents. This means, going back to the basics. CAM doesn't use prescription medications or invasive procedures. Western medicine isn't entirely on board philosophically with CAM, because it is a largely unregulated field. So how can we tell if CAM works? And when should we choose it over traditional medicine? Here's what you need to know about these CAM procedures.
Acupuncture is viewed differently in the East and West. It developed in Ancient China as a technique of inserting needles into the skin in specific areas called meridians that are expected to balance the energy flow, or "qi". This would ultimately cure a whole host of ailments, but is mostly used for pain relief. In the West, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nerves and increase blood flow, which reduces pain. Acupuncture has few side effects, and has a high success rate. That's why it's a great alternative to popping Advils every time you have a migraine.
Reiki is also an Eastern technique developed in Japan that focuses on energy healing utilizing the power of the human touch. While research is still in the early stages, small studies have shown Reiki to be effective in reducing stress, anxiety and depression, and increasing overall wellbeing.
Biofeedback is a technique that involves measuring the body's physiological functions in order to train the body to manipulate them. This allows you to take control of your heart rate, skin conductance, and breathing to achieve a greater state of relaxation. Biofeedback is also a lot of fun -- there are games you can order to test your own ability.
Hypnosis is more than just a fancy party trick -- it's a powerful therapy. If you have an intense phobia or anxiety, a therapist can hypnotize you through suggestion into eliminating your fear. Hypnosis is also used to control pain. While it's not a miracle therapy, being able to elevate to a heightened sense of consciousness helps us gain agency over our ailments and self-heal.
CAM is still a new field that warrants decades more of research -- but the results so far are promising. Our bodies and minds are more powerful than we think, and with the help of ancient and new techniques, we can achieve a greater state of wellbeing.