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Complementary Medicine

The word "complementary" means "in addition to." Complementary medicine is treatment and medicine that you use in addition to your doctor's standard care. People often think complementary medicine and alternative medicine are the same. The two are similar. Alternative medicine is a treatment that you use instead of traditional medicine. If acupuncture is combined with traditional therapy it would be considered complementary. If acupuncture is used instead of traditional therapy, it would be considered alternative.

A central concept of many types of complementary medicine is to give thought and care to the whole person (holistic) rather than providing treatment for a specific disease or symptom. This holistic view and the emphasis on maintaining good health may be appealing for those who have chronic illness or for those who want to improve their quality of life through lifestyle changes.

The use of complementary medicine in the U.S. is on the rise. People often seek out complementary therapies, like acupuncture, for long-term (chronic) conditions that have not been successfully treated with conventional medicine as well as to maintain and improve wellness and quality of life.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of June 11, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 11, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.