CAM Facts and Research

  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) emphasizes healing and disease prevention by treating the mind, body and spirit. Many CAM therapies are used in conjunction with conventional treatments to avoid illness, reduce stress, prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms, or control or cure disease.
  • One aspect that differentiates CAM from traditional medicine is that CAM practitioners often search for emotional, physiological and psychological conditions that could be affecting a person's health.
  • Congress approved a budget of $91 million in 2001 for the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
  • According to an Oxford Member survey in January 2001
    • Nine out of ten Oxford Members are open to the idea of using CAM.
    • 44% of Oxford Members used at least one type of CAM therapy in the prior 12 month period
    • Over 55% of Oxford Members use nutritional and herbal supplements
  • Approximately 25% of prescription drugs are derived from natural sources.

What the Research is Showing About CAM

Preterm Newborns Gain More Weight with Massage Therapy
Preterm infants gained 47% more weight, became more socially responsive, and were discharged six days earlier at a hospital cost savings of $10,000 per infant (or $4.7 billion if the 470,000 preemies born each year were massaged). The underlying biological mechanism for weight gain in the massaged preterm newborns may be an increase in vagal tone and, in turn, an increase in insulin (food absorption hormone).

Field, T., Schanberg, S. M., Scafidi, F., Bauer, C. R., Vega-Lahr, N., Garcia, R., Nystrom, J., & Kuhn, C. M. (1986). Tactile/ kinesthetic stimulation effects on preterm neonates. Pediatrics, 77, 654-658.

Chronic Low Back Pain
In comparing the effectiveness of acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and self-care education for persistent back pain, therapeutic massage was found effective in providing long-lasting benefits. Traditional Chinese medical acupuncture was relatively ineffective. Massage might be an effective alternative to conventional medical care for persistent back pain.

Cherkin, Daniel C., Eisenberg, David, Sherman, Karen J., Barlow, William, Kaptchuk, Ted J., Street, Janet, Deyo, Richard A. (2001) Radomized Trial Comparing Traditional Chinese Medical Acupuncture, Therapeutic Massage, and Self-care Education for Chronic Low Back Pain. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:1081-1088.

Pediatric Asthma
This study showed positive effects of parents massaging their asthmatic children including increased peak air flow, improved pulmonary functions, less anxiety and reduced stress hormone (cortisol) in the children. Parental anxiety also decreased.

Field, T., Henteleff, T., Hernandez-Reif M., Martinez, E., Mavunda, K., Kuhn C., & Schanberg S. (1998). Children with asthma have improved pulmonary functions after massage therapy. Journal of Pediatrics, 132, 854-858.

Findings from basic research have begun to elucidate the mechanisms of action of acupuncutre, including the release of opioids and other peptides in the central nervous system and the periphery and changes in neuroendocrine function. Promising results have emerged showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain. Acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or inclusion in a comprehensive management program for addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma.

Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement 1997 Nov 3-5; 15(5):1-34.

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