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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.
Last Revised: June 11, 2013
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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