Complementary and Alternative Medicine Safety

Is CAM safe?

People who want to use CAM therapies and the practitioners within each profession see safety as of paramount importance.

For many patients and clients, their reasons for choosing alternative or complementary therapy methods is because of negative side-effects during treatment with conventional medicine.

Without generalising the term ‘safety’, complementary and alternative medicine is deemed to be safe when carried out by a trained and accredited practitioner and done within consultation with your GP.

In 2000, the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology carried out a 15-month study into CAM and concluded that most therapies were ‘relatively safe’. They also stated that therapies such as acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine could be damaging when used by untrained practitioners.

We have already determined that both Osteopathy and Chiropractic have statutory regulation and so you should seek a practitioner who has the appropriate and up-to-date registration with the relevant governing body. Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine are edging closer toward the same regulation but do remain within strict voluntary regulation guidelines to ensure safety. The same can be said of other practices and disciplines within CAM.

Ensure your own safety

Despite CAM being seen as a ‘natural’ approach to wellness, as with any treatment, whether it be conventional or non-conventional, there are benefits and risks. Risks can include misdiagnosis and negative side-effects.

You can reduce the risks and increase your safety by taking precautions when choosing a therapy and practitioner.

Consult with your GP about symptoms that appear to have no known cause. By doing so, you can receive a professional diagnosis of your problem and eliminate the possibility of serious illness.

Consult with your GP about your decision to seek out complementary and alternative medicine methods. They may be able to recommend a suitable therapy and local therapist. They can also inform you of any treatments that may react with conventional drugs.

If you have been prescribed medication, do not stop taking it without first consulting your GP. A trained CAM practitioner will not encourage you to stop taking medication anyway as this can cause serious side-effects.

When visiting a CAM therapist for the first time, inform them of your medical problems and medical history as well as any medications or other CAM therapies you are receiving. A good therapist will ask you about this anyway.

Let your GP know about any CAM therapies you are looking in to.

If you are suffering with a serious condition, check with your GP before beginning any CAM therapy.

Inform your GP and your CAM practitioner if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Only use a CAM practitioner who has registration with the necessary statutory body. Where statutory regulation doesn’t exist, only use a therapist who has membership to a professional voluntary regulation body to ensure they have carried out the right training and gained a qualification. They should also have signed up to that organisation’s code of conduct and have liability insurance in place.

If you are thinking about CAM for your child, first consult your GP and then discuss the possible treatment with a trained and qualified CAM practitioner.

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