Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Children with Healthcare Special Needs

By Waldman, H. Barry; Compton, Kristin et al. | The Exceptional Parent, August 2013 | Go to article overview

Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Children with Healthcare Special Needs


Waldman, H. Barry, Compton, Kristin, Cannella, Dolores, Perlman, Steven P., The Exceptional Parent


The reality is that many parents may consider alternative medical systems, manipulative and body based therapeutics, as well as the mind body therapies and the energy health therapies as valued additions to standard therapies. Nevertheless, they may be reluctant to admit or report their actions for fear of being ridiculed that they have ventured beyond the pale of accepted remedies.

WHAT IS COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered to be a part of conventional medicine. CAM is used together with conventional medicine or as an alternative in place of conventional medicine. Integrative medicine combines conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness. "While scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for most, there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies; questions such as whether these therapies are safe and whether they work for the purposes for which they are used." (1) The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government's lead agency for scientific research on CAM. The mission of NCCAM is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care. (2)

TYPES OF CAM MODALITIES

The NCCAM groups CAM practices into four domains:

* Biologically based practices which use substances found in nature, such as herbs, special diets or vitamins (often in doses higher than those used in conventional medicine).

* Energy medicine involves the use of energy fields, such as magnetic or bio-fields.

* Manipulative and body-based practices relying on movement of one or more body parts.

* Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's ability to affect bodily functions and symptoms.

When prayer was included in the definition of CAM, a NCCAM survey found that the mind-body domain was the most commonly used. When prayer was not included, biologically based practices (22%) were more popular than mind-body medicine (17%). (2)

In the United States, non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products are the most commonly used CAM therapy among adults. Most common natural products in decreasing proportional use include: echinacea, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, garlic supplement and glucosamine. And that 38% of adults (including 44% of adults between 50 and 59 years) and 12% of children are using some form of CAM. In 2007, adults made an estimated 354 million visits to CAM practitioners with estimated out-of-pocket costs of $11.9 billion. About three-quarters of both visits to CAM practitioners and total out-of-pocket costs spent on CAM practitioners was associated with manipulative and body-based therapies (chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage and movement therapy). (3) Findings from studies in the U.S. indicate that CAM use becomes more likely when access to conventional care has been restricted. (4)

International studies of the proportion of the general population that used CAM therapies ranged from 10% to 76% with 2% to 48% of the population reporting visits to CAM practitioners in the past year. Estimates of 12-month prevalence of any CAM use by the general population (excluding prayer) showed continuing stability over time in Australia, about 50% of the general population. (5)

There has been an increase in the use of herbal medicines in the U.S. over the last few decades and the belief that these medicines are safe because they are made from natural sources. However, some of these products have associated adverse effects including toxicity and possible drug interactions. For the most part, "alternate products" are chemicals, generally unregulated regarding source, purity and potency. …

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