National Psoriasis Foundation
Treating Psoriasis > Complementary and Alternative

Complementary Approaches: What are they?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional, or Western, medicine. While some scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies—questions such as whether these therapies are safe and whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine while alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.

Integrated medicine (IM), combines conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, or stress reduction techniques. While similar to complementary medicine, it depends on a partnership between the patient and the doctor, where the goal is to treat the mind, body, and spirit, all at the same time. While some of the therapies used may be non-conventional, a guiding principle within integrated medicine is to use therapies that have some high-quality evidence to support them.

The list of what is considered to be CAM and integrated medicine changes continually, as those therapies that are proven to be safe and effective become adopted into conventional health care and as new approaches to health care emerge. 

Licensing, accreditation, and regulatory laws for CAM practices are becoming more common to help ensure that practitioners are competent and provide quality services. Ask about a practitioner's education and training, as well as any licensing or certification. It is important to tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

If you decide to seek medical care from an alternative medicine practitioner, ask him or her these questions before beginning treatment:

  • Are you licensed to use this treatment?
  • Do you have experience and success treating psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis?
  • How many patients have you successfully treated?
  • What is the length and cost of the proposed treatment?
  • What are reasonable expectations for improvement based on your experience treating patients with similar conditions?
  • What are the risks or possible side effects of the treatment under consideration?
  • How long have you been administering this treatment?
  • What are your other areas of expertise?
  • What other kinds of problems do you treat?
  • Are your professional references available?

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