Alternative Medicine


Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to a wide range of healthcare practices that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Examples of CAM include: acupuncture, ayurveda, physiotherapy, herbal therapy, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, reflexology, magnetic therapy, and yoga. Let us review some of these practices in this article.


Chiropractic is a specialized therapeutic discipline of joints mechanical disorders, especially the spine, and their effects on the nervous system. There is a belief that adjusting the musculoskeletal structure, especially the spine, helps the body improve by itself, without surgery or medications; as the joints regain their normal motion when the surrounding tissue is repaired.

About 22 million Americans visit chiropractic clinics annually; including 35% who complain of pain in the back, arm, neck, and leg, and headaches. The chiropractor asks for the case history, and performs a clinical examination, using in some cases a bone scan to identify the defect. Afterwards, the chiropractor performs manual treatment to correct the vertebrae and joints.

The practice of chiropractic is safe, effective, and satisfactory for patients as it relieves pain effectively. This is reflected in a study in which the researchers evaluated two military groups in the United States of America. The first group received conventional treatment, while the second group received conventional and chiropractic treatment, for lower back pain. The results revealed a better improvement in pain severity in the second group than in the first.

However, this treatment is not appropriate for some cases, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, spinal cord compression, and patients on blood thinners.


Reflexology is a practice of applying pressure on particular points on the foot or hand that are believed to provide numerous impacts and benefits on related body organs. It is regarded as a safe practice, and there are several theories about it. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that there are energy paths, which travel within the body and are connected to its organs. When the person experiences fatigue and stress, these paths get closed, leading to diseases. Pressing these points helps energy paths regain their balance; hence, improving the condition of the body. Others explain this practice as improving the nervous system connected to the organs that improve by massage.

Reflexology helps reduce stress and anxiety, and improves the mood and overall health. A study on a group of females, who were exposed to reflexology massage for two months, showed an improvement in the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Some benefits have also been noticed in self-medicated patients, such as boosting the immune system, getting rid of cold and bacterial infections, improving sinusitis, contributing to hormone balance, and enhancing digestion, fertility, and arthritis.


Homeopathy means that the body can cure itself when being injected by tiny proportions of natural substances, which stimulate the body's defenses and the healing process. Homeopathic therapists (homeopaths) assess the patient's physical, mental, and emotional state.

The homeopath gives the patient the substance that causes the same symptoms in a healthy person. According to homeopaths, eye allergies, for example, could be treated using onion extracts, which make a healthy person cry. This substance is diluted with water or alcohol, then the mixture is shaken; this process is known as the "successing" process. Homeopaths believe that the small portion is more effective; the treatment comes in various forms: tablets, drops, cream, and gel.

Homeopathy is used in treating several conditions, such as depression, premenstrual syndrome, allergy, migraine, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue, arthritis, nausea, toothaches, cold, and cough.

If you are interested in this topic, you can also read “Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Truth or Myth?”, published in the
PSC Newsletter, 1st School Semester 2010/2011, p. 22.


In summary, there are several treatment methods that deserve to be highlighted. Although these practices do not treat the disease itself, they can still help reduce pain and symptoms severity.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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