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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • By: Mary P. Guerrera
  • In: Encyclopedia of Family Health
  • Edited by: Martha Craft-Rosenberg & Shelley-Rae Pehler
  • Subject:Family Health, Family Policy, Family Law

The definition of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is relatively new, complex, and evolving. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional, mainstream medicine. Terms that are important to distinguish within this definition include conventional medicine—practiced by doctors of allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) medicine and other health professionals, including nurses and physical therapists; complementary medicine—used together with conventional medicine; and alternative medicine—used in place of conventional medicine. Although CAM encompasses an extremely broad group of practices, it is usually divided into four major domains, as described by NCCAM: (1) biologically based practices, (2) manipulative and body-based practices, ...

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