CAM Versus IM: What’s the difference?

image of plants in test tubes

If you’re confused by all the terms for unconventional approaches to medical care – read on to decide which term resonates with you and learn 5 important aspects of integrative health care.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health:

  • “Complementary” generally refers to using a non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine.
  • “Alternative” refers to using a non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.
  • “Integrative” combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Important Aspects of Integrative Health Care

What makes your care integrative?

  1. YOU matter: IM is participatory medicine which means that YOU play a major role in your own care especially treatment decisions. This is commonly called “patient-centered care.”
  2. Care of the whole person: By exploring more than just the one part of a person or one issue, it works to solve issues at their core and acknowledges the effect of many factors including your mind, spirit and environment on your body. And visa versa; your body on your mind and spirit.
  3. Your doctor is your partner in care: The doctor-patient relationship is important and is cultivated for comprehensive, continuous care.
  4. The body is a healing machine: IM recognizes that the body heals itself and so first optimizing that self-healing capacity is a priority.
  5. Get the best of both worlds: IM includes the best of conventional and complementary medicine.

Integrative Medicine for the Win, Says SI

Samueli Institute (SI) advocates using integrative medicine because it selects the best, scientifically-validated therapies regardless of whether it is a conventional, alternative or complementary medical practice.

So while convention medicine (CM) and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are more well-known terms, we hope that integrative medicine or IM will soon become both the standard term and the standard of care.