When looking for a conventional family physician, many of us talk to friends or professionals whom we trust will give us good referrals. The same holds true for seeking out complementary and alternative medicine (integrative, holistic, CAM) practitioners.
By definition, CAM includes diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices and products that aren´t considered part of conventional medicine. This can include (but isn´t limited to) chiropractic, massage, naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, biofeedback, traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, guided imagery, meditation and healing touch. Many of these practices incorporate a combination of herbs, vitamins and other dietary supplements into each customized health regimen.
CAM professionals can be physicians, nurses, pharmacists or dietitians, as well as traditional Chinese medicine and other non-healthcare practitioners (i.e.
energy healers). When selecting a CAM practitioner, here are some important tips to remember:
¯ Check with your primary care physician or holistic clinical pharmacist for a referral to an evidence-based CAM practitioner, making sure her/his practice is safe and effective for your condition.
¯ Gather information on CAM practitioners in your area before you visit one, asking questions about their training, years of experience and credentials.
¯ Contact a professional organization for the type of practitioner you´re seeking (i.e., dirline.nlm.nih.gov, American Board of Homeotherapeutics, American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, American Chiropractic Association, American Holistic Medical Association, American Massage Therapy Association, Academy for Guided Imagery, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists). Ask if there are health conditions in which the practitioner specializes and how frequently she treats clients with similar problems to yours.
¯ Find out if the therapy you seek is covered by your health insurance.
¯ List questions you wish to ask your CAM practitioner at your first visit. ¯ Most importantly, disclose all CAM visits to your primary care physician so your overall health and wellness care can be optimally coordinated.
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