Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes a variety of interventionsâ€”from exercise and dietary supplements to stress management strategies, biofeedback, and acupuncture. These therapiesâ€”which come from many different disciplines and traditionsâ€”are generally considered to be outside the realm of conventional medicine. When used in combination with conventional medicine, they are referred to as â€œcomplementary;â€ when used instead of conventional medicine, they are referred to as â€œalternative.â€ In the United States today, approximately 75% of people with MS use one form or another of CAM, generally in combination with their prescribed MS treatments. Are CAM Therapies Safe to Use? Many people use CAM because they believe that anything sold over-the-counter at a pharmacy or health food store is healthy and harmless. However, unlike conventional medical treatmentsâ€”which are thoroughly tested and carefully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationâ€”most CAM therapies have undergone very little, if any, scientific study. So some may be completely safe while others may actually pose significant risksâ€”for example, by producing serious side effects or interacting negatively with other medications a person is taking. Fortunately, a greater effort is now being made to find ways to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of various types of CAM. Why is Controlled Clinical Studies So Important? Carefully-designed clinical trials are the best way to determine whether a treatment is safe and effective. Here are the reasons why: * Because the course of MS is variable, and each personâ€™s symptoms tend to come and go in an unpredictable way, the only way to determine the effectiveness of a treatment is to test it on a large number of people. * Because most peopleâ€”regardless of the disease they haveâ€”will have a positive response to any new treatment they receive (even if itâ€™s an inactive substance or placebo), the effectiveness of a new treatment can only be proven by comparing it to a placebo or to another treatment that has already been shown to be effective. * Because every treatment carries with it the risk of anticipated and unanticipated side effects, the only way to evaluate a treatmentâ€™s safety is to evaluate it in a large number of people over a sufficient period of time. Recommended Guidelines to Follow People who are considering using a CAM therapy should ask the following questions: * What does the treatment involve? * How and why is it supposed to work? * How effective is it? * What are the risks? * How much does it cost? The answers to these questions can help a person considering a CAM therapy to weigh the benefits against the risks. For those who decide to go ahead with the CAM therapy, here are some good, common sense recommendations: Keep your physician informed about everything you are taking. Not sharing this important information is like asking your physician to treat you blindfoldedâ€”and knowing everything you are taking will allow your doctor to alert you to possible side effects or drug interactions. Donâ€™t abandon conventional therapy. The treatments your physician prescribes for you are the ones that have been evaluated in controlled clinical trials or accepted by the MS medical community as safe and effective therapies. So stay with your prescribed treatments even if you decide to add CAM to your treatment plan. Document the experience. Keep a detailed log of what you take or what is done and any changes you experience. Check out These Complementary Approaches to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being * Food and Dietâ€”Although various diets have been promoted to cure or control MS, no diet has been proven to modify the course of MS. MS specialists recommend that people follow the same high fiber, low fat diet that is recommended for all adults. * Exerciseâ€” Exercise offers many benefits for people with MS. In addition to improving your overall health, aerobic exercise reduces fatigue and improves bladder and bowel function, strength, and mood. Stretching exercises reduce stiffness and increase mobility. The physicial therapist can recommend an exercise plan to fit your abilities and limitations. * Stress managementâ€”The relationship between stress and the onset or worsening of MS is far from clearâ€”and different types of stress appear to affect different people in different ways. But none of us feel our best when weâ€™re stressed, so itâ€™s important to find the stress management strategies that work best for you. * Acupunctureâ€”Acupuncture is finding its way into Western medicine, with studies suggesting possible benefits for a wide range of problems. Definition of terms: 1. Alternative medicines â€“ is any practice that is put forward as having the healing effects of medicine, but is not based on evidence gathered with the scientific method. Typically not part of conventional treatment, alternative medicine is usually based on tradition, belief in supernatural energies, pseudoscience, errors in reasoning, propaganda, or fraud. Alternative therapies lack scientific validation, and their effectiveness is either unproved or disproved. The treatments are those that are not part of the conventional, science-based healthcare system. 2. Complementary medicines â€“ is treatment and medicine that you use in addition to your doctorâ€™s standard care. 3. Dietary Supplements â€“ dietary supplements are substances you eat or drink. They can be vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, amino acids (the individual building blocks of protein), or parts of these substances. They can be in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form. They supplement (add to) the diet and should not be considered a substitute for food. Importance of CAM in Clinical Pharmacy Studying CAM is important in clinical pharmacy since it is concerned with drugs. If you have a patient who does CAM system, then you can be aware of doâ€™s and donâ€™ts so you can perform a better patient counseling. Since CAM is not suggested, but at least you know it, then you can support your patients regarding that. Situational Analysis Talk to your doctor about risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine Work with your conventional medical doctor to help you make informed decisions regarding complementary and alternative treatments. Even if your doctor canâ€™t recommend a specific practitioner, he or she can help you understand possible risks and benefits before you try a treatment. Itâ€™s especially important to involve your doctor if youâ€™re pregnant, have medical problems or take prescription medicine. And donâ€™t stop or change your conventional treatment â€” such as the dose of your prescription medications â€” without talking to your doctor first. Finally, be sure to keep your doctor updated on any complementary and alternative therapies youâ€™re using, including herbal and dietary supplements.
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