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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

  • Acupuncture: The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.
  • Chiropractic therapy: This focuses on the relationship between the body's structure—mainly the spine—and the body's function. Doctors of Chiropractic, who are also called chiropractors or chiropractic physicians, mostly use a type of hands-on therapy called manipulation (or adjustment). Chiropractic therapy is used most often to treat musculoskeletal conditions— problems with the muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissue such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
  • Homeopathy: In homeopathy, a key premise is that every person has energy called a vital force or self-healing response. When this energy is disrupted or imbalanced, health problems develop. Homeopathy aims to stimulate the body's own healing response.
  • Massage therapy: The term massage therapy covers a diverse group of practices and techniques. There are over 80 types of massage therapy. In all of them, therapists press, rub, and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body, often varying pressure and movement. They most often use their hands and fingers, but may use their forearms, elbows or feet. Typically, the intent is to relax the soft tissues, increase delivery of blood and oxygen to the massaged areas, warm them and decrease pain.
  • Meditation: In meditation, the participant learns to focus his/her attention and suspend the stream of thoughts that normally occupy the mind. This practice is believed to result in a state of greater physical relaxation, mental calmness and psychological balance. Practicing meditation can change how a person relates to the flow of emotions and thoughts.


Free publications from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) are available from Overlake Cancer Resource Center. Contact the Cancer Support Services Supervisor to request materials.

  • Tell tip sheet: This sheet provides tips for talking with healthcare providers about the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  • Patient wallet card: This card will help keep track of all medications, including CAM therapies and will be a handy reference during visits with your healthcare provider.
  • Get the facts: Are you considering using Complementary and Alternative Medicine? This fact sheet will assist you in your decision making.



The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) clearinghouse provides information in CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations or referrals to practitioners.

For more information, visit their Web site or call their toll-free number: 1-888-644-6226 or TTY 1-866-464-3615; 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).


PubMed is a service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). PubMed contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. CAM on PubMed, developed jointly by NCCM and NLM, is a subset of the PubMed system and focuses on the topic of CAM.

ClinicalTrials.Gov is a database of information on federally and privately supported clinical trials (research studies in people) for a wide range of disease and conditions. It is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.