The terms complementary (aka integrative, holistic) and alternative medicine refer to medical practices that are not usually found in standard medical care. While alternative medicine replaces standard medical care, complementary medicine is a compromise, employing standard techniques along with alternative therapies. For example, an acupuncturist provides alternative care. But when acupuncture is used by an oncologist together with standard treatment to help with the side effects of cancer, acupuncture becomes part of complementary medicine.
Some of the more accepted forms of alternative medicine, such as chiropractic and acupuncture, have become mainstream, and are covered by insurance in many states.
Alternative Therapies in ME/CFS
People with ME/CFS routinely utilize alternative approaches to address some of their most pressing symptoms, such as sleep disorder and pain. Alternative approaches can also be used to address the mechanisms that are believed to drive the illness: immune dysregulation, hormonal imbalances, metabolic disruption, inflammation, allergies, and so on.
A survey conducted by the CFIDS Association of America in 2013 found that more than 70% of ME/CFS patients take nutritional supplements and employ non-drug therapies such as diet modifications, rest, taking naps and activity modification to treat their symptoms. Almost half used alternative therapies such as massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture and meditation to treat ME/CFS.
Below are some of the more commonly used alternative therapies employed by ME/CFS patients to help reduce the severity and frequency of specific symptoms, as well as to address global problems such as low energy and post-exertional malaise.
Pain Relief: Acupressure and Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Massage, TENS, reflexology
Anxiety and Stress Reduction: Biofeedback, Meditation, Hypnosis, Yoga, Visualization and Guided Imagery
Detox Techniques: Perrin Technique, Chelation, Coffee Enemas
Immune Support: Transfer Factor, Live Cell Therapy
Global Support: Hydrotherapy, Hyperbaric oxygen, Ayurveda
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
What is Integrative Medicine?
American Holistic Medical Association