Complementary Medicine

Overview

Complementary medicine is a non-standard treatment that is used by some people along with their standard medical care.

This type of treatment may include:

  • Acupuncture.
  • Yoga.
  • Herbs and other natural health products.
  • Massage.

How well does complementary medicine work?

Many people get help from complementary medicine. Some research suggests that there are benefits of certain therapies. For example, acupuncture may help with pain. Mindfulness meditation can help with sleep problems, and tai chi may help with balance.

How can you use complementary medicine safely?

  • Tell your doctor if you use or want to use this type of treatment.
  • Some of these therapies—such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or yoga—are very safe when people who are healthy go to a well-trained professional. Choose this person just like you would choose a doctor.

Know the risks

  • Don't use these therapies in place of standard care. You may miss important treatment that could save your life.
  • Use these treatments wisely. Natural health products like dietary supplements and herbs may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research. Also, they may cause side effects or interact with medicines that you take.
  • Your provincial health plan or private insurance may not cover this type of therapy.

Types of Complementary Medicine

Complementary medicine includes a wide range of therapies that some people use along with their standard medical care. Here are some common types.

  • Bodywork. This includes massage therapy, reflexology, and spinal manipulation (like chiropractic therapy).
  • Energy therapies. These include reiki, healing touch, and therapeutic touch.
  • Mind and body practices. These include guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, music therapy, relaxation techniques, tai chi, and yoga.
  • Natural health products. These include supplements, plant products (like herbs and spices), probiotics, and vitamins. They also include special foods or diets.

Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine also have practices that some people use along with their standard medical care. One example is acupuncture, which comes from traditional Chinese medicine.

Learn more

Credits

Current as of: January 3, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine