Complementary therapy is a type of non-medical therapy which is used in combination with more conventional medical treatments. This type of therapy can include many different treatments, including acupuncture, homeopathy and electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) transcutaneous therapy. Although many of these treatments are still considered alternative, some types of complementary therapies have become so widely accepted by the medical establishment that they are covered by health insurance in some countries. An example is acupuncture, which is included in the policies of many private insurance companies in the United States.
There are many types of complementary therapy. The most common of these include alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatments and TENS therapy. In acupuncture, needles are inserted into critical pressure points on the body to relieve pain, stress and other symptoms. TENS therapy stimulates similar pressure points with mild electrical discharges and is used in the treatment of a variety of chronic pain ailments. Chiropractic therapy involves manipulating the spine and other joints to improve health and well-being.
Although the terms “alternative therapy” and “complementary therapy” are often used interchangeably, they are not quite the same, even if they refer to the same types of treatment. Alternative therapy is what is used in place of conventional medical treatment. By contrast, complementary therapies are used in addition to medical treatment. Therefore, the same treatment can be considered alternative or complementary, depending on the specific situation in which it is used.
Another confusing element of this distinction is that the term “complementary therapy” came into existence largely due to a change in the way of thinking about the treatments themselves. Before the 1990s, treatments such as acupuncture and TENS therapy were considered “quackery” rather than legitimate treatments. In the 1990s, however, the growing popularity of these types of treatments forced the medical establishment to take them more seriously. As a result, they have become increasingly traditional, to the point that many alternative therapies are often used in conjunction with medical treatments. The use of such treatments to complement medical treatment has given rise to their complementary rather than alternative consideration.
Although complementary therapies are used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments, they are very different in philosophical terms. Overall, the most significant difference is that complementary treatments tend to use a more global approach, since the treatment center is on the whole person rather than the disease and its symptoms. For example, a doctor might prescribe pain relief and anti-nausea medications for those who experience migraines. Conversely, a holistic doctor might suggest massage, relaxation techniques or acupuncture in addition to medications.
- Massage can be a type of complementary therapy for some conditions and a traditional therapy for others.
- Acupuncture is among several types of complementary therapy.