Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Complementary or alternative medicine - what's the difference?

The phrases complementary therapy and alternative medicine are often used as if they mean the same thing; they may also be combined into one phrase – complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs). However, there is an important difference between the two.

A complementary therapy is used alongside conventional medical treatment, whereas an alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment.  On occasion, there can be an overlap which is why the term CAM is used.

In our survey, we specifically asked about experience of  complementary therapies and 390 people said they had found them  very helpful, 267 found them moderately helpful  and 119 said they had not helped at all.  Respondents listed various types of complementary therapies including mindfulness, meditation, massage, acupuncture, homeopathy and others.

Before undertaking any complementary therapy you should get full information about it and the practitioner and make sure you have clear information about costs and the practitioner’s insurance cover.  The only complementary therapies that are regulated in the UK are osteopathy and chiropractic.  Others have voluntary registers and professional organisations.