Complementary Medicine - What Is It?

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Complementary Medicine - What Is It?
Complementary Medicine - What Is It?

Video: Complementary Medicine - What Is It?

Video: Complementary Medicine - What Is It?
Video: Complementary and Alternative Medicine - What You Need To Know 2023, December

Complementary medicine: what is it?

Complementary medicine encompasses a wide range of disciplines and treatment methods that are based on different models of disease development and treatment than those of conventional medicine. Alternative medicine, "Complementary and Alternative Medicine - CAM", holistic medicine, integrative medicine, naturopathy, traditional medicine (e.g. Chinese, European or Tibetan) are related umbrella terms that denote healing methods or diagnostic concepts.

The palette includes completely different methods from acupuncture to homeopathy and Kneipp medicine to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).


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  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • Supplement to conventional medicine
  • Which approaches is complementary medicine based on?
  • Who can treat diseases?
  • Information, checklists and recommendations
  • How are the costs going to be covered?

Supplement to conventional medicine

There is often no scientific proof of effectiveness for a method. Their application is based in many cases on the experience and subjective assessment of patients and treating staff. The placebo effect can play an important role, which can be quite useful for the course of the disease and is often also used in conventional medical treatment.

In order to avoid harm to health, patients should in any case not be discouraged from effective conventional medical treatments by "alternative" methods. Complementary medicine or complementary methods are therefore seen as a supplement to conventional medicine.

Complementary methods are not only used in medicine but are also used, for example, in psychotherapy, clinical psychology as well as health psychology and music therapy.

Which approaches is complementary medicine based on?

Many representatives of complementary medicine see health not as the absence of illness, but as a balance between internal and external forces. If there is an imbalance between body, mind and environment, this manifests itself in illness. Complementary medical therapy consists in particular of strengthening (self) healing powers. Patients are assigned an active role in regaining their own health.

A holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment is central to most complementary medical methods. What is considered holistic is different. This can mean that not only the physical but also the psychological aspects of an illness are included. Social problems can also be taken into account. Spirituality as part of a holistic view of health also often plays a role. Another aspect of complementary medical thinking is maintaining health.

In principle, however, these approaches are not a characteristic feature of complementary medicine, as these aspects are also of major importance for the success of treatment in conventional medical treatment beyond the application of evidence-based knowledge.

Who can treat diseases?

In order to protect patients, the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses is reserved for doctors. Recognized health professions have clearly defined areas of responsibility for patient treatment. But also certain free or regulated trades offer services that have to do with health in the broader sense, e.g. cosmetics, foot care, life and social counseling, massage, etc. For providers who have not completed any training in a health profession, it is loud However, due to a lack of basic medical skills, the Ministry of Health has not been able to guarantee that they will recognize an illness and refer them to a doctor for clarification.

In order to guarantee a high level of professional competence, the Austrian Medical Association (ÖÄK) offers profound training in a number of complementary medical methods and awards relevant diplomas after they have been completed. These training courses are aimed exclusively at doctors.

Information, checklists and recommendations

The Ministry of Health offers important information on complementary medicine / alternative medicine on its website. The following are described, among others:

  • Providers of complementary medicine,
  • Definitions of terms as well
  • Legal basis of who is allowed to carry out which activities.

In addition, recommendations and checklists are available to support patients in their decision for or against a complementary method. They make it easier for patients or consumers to ask specific questions, e.g. about method, risks, training of the provider, costs, etc., and thus more easily to check the seriousness of an offer.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The costs for complementary medical treatment are usually not covered by the health insurance carriers and in a few cases with the approval of the chief physician. In the spa and rehabilitation sector, at least partial cost coverage is provided for individual services. In any case, it is worth checking with the responsible health insurance company.