Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Autism

Child with autism looking at computer screenWoman in a yoga positionWoman having chiropracticBottle of pillsSymbol for reiki

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional, Western medicine as practiced by medical doctors and by allied health professionals, such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, psychologists, and registered nurses.

'Complementary medicine' refers to the use of CAM together with conventional medicine.

'Alternative medicine' refers to the use of CAM in place of conventional medicine.

We have based our classification of CAM interventions on the system used by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the USA. However some individual interventions fall into more than one category.

Whole Medical Systems

Whole medical systems are complete systems of theory and practice that have evolved over time in different cultures and apart from conventional or Western medicine.

Specific systems include: Ayurvedic Medicine, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Please see Whole Medical Systems for more information

Natural Products

This area of CAM includes use of a variety of herbal medicines (also known as botanicals), vitamins, minerals, and other 'natural products' such as essential fatty acids. Many of these natural products are sold over the counter as dietary or nutritional supplements.

Please see separate section on Diets and Supplements for details of these interventions.

Mind-Body Medicine

Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behaviour, with the intent to use the mind to affect physical functioning and promote health.

Mind-body practices include

  • Meditation-based activities such as deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery, hypnotherapy and progressive relaxation
  • TCM/martial arts-based activities such as acupuncture, qi gong, tai chi and yoga.

Please see Mind-Body Medicine for more details.

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices

Manipulative and body-based practices focus primarily on the structures and systems of the body, including the bones and joints, soft tissues, and circulatory and lymphatic systems.

Manipulative practices body-based practices include chiropractic, cranial osteopathy and massage

Please see separate section on Manipulation-Based Interventions for details of these interventions.

Movement Therapies

Movement therapies are a broad range of Eastern and Western movement-based approaches used to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Examples include Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, Pilates, Rolfing Structural Integration, and Trager psychophysical integration.

Please see separate section on Motor/Sensory Interventions for details of these interventions.

Energy Medicine

Energy medicine involves the manipulation of various energy fields, which may or may not be measurable.

Veritable Energy

Practices based on veritable i.e. objectively measurable, forms of energy including electromagnetic fields. Includes Lightwave Stimulation, Neurofeedback Training, Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation/

Please see separate section on Assistive and Adaptive Technology for details of these interventions.

Putative Energy

Practices based on putative i.e. yet to be measured energy fields (also called biofields) generally reflect the concept that human beings are infused with subtle forms of energy, including spiritual energy.

Includes various practices, such as qigong, reiki and tai chi found in the Mind-Body Medicine category above.

Other CAM Interventions

There are some CAM interventions which do not readily fit into any of the categories above including animal-based therapies such as assistance dogs, dolphin therapy, hippotherapy and pet therapy.

Please see separate section on Other Interventions for details of these interventions.

More Information

Please see Publications on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Autism

Related Glossaries

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15 Jun 2018