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Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) encompass a range of therapies that are used alongside conventional medicine. Many of these therapies, which are not typically included in Western medical training, have not been adopted into mainstream healthcare due to a lack of scientific evidence or because of social, cultural or economic reasons (sadly, NHS budgets cannot stretch beyond conventional care, despite calls for more complementary therapies to be available on the NHS).
Common uses of complementary healthcare include improving quality of life for those living with chronic conditions or in palliative care; post-surgical care; and helping anxious patients to complete often expensive orthodox treatments and procedures that have unpleasant side effects, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Working alongside conventional medicine, complementary healthcare methods are often used to help support the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms, to ease or alter a patient’s perception of pain, and to support patients through periods of anxiety and fear, associated with their illness.
People with chronic or life-limiting conditions such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, mental health problems (i.e. mild depression and anxiety) weight problems, musculoskeletal problems, or a history of substance misuse (including alcohol and drugs), can be greatly supported using complementary therapies alongside conventional care.
Complementary therapies can help to empower an individual to manage and cope with their condition and its associated symptoms. Some therapies may also help to prevent conditions or symptoms from escalating. The principal purpose of most complementary therapies is to produce a therapeutic effect additional to that offered by other medical or pharmacological interventions.
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