(4.5)Complementary and alternative treatments

What are the main differences between complementary and alternative medicine and conventional medicine?

Conventional medicine is sometimes criticised for focusing on the disease rather than the person as a whole. Complementary and alternative medicine often take a more holistic approach and aim to enable the body to heal itself.

Why do people use complementary and alternative medicine?

People often try complementary and alternative medicines because conventional medicines haven’t worked or because they have concerns about side-effects of medication.

Does complementary and alternative medicine really work?

Because there are many types of complementary and alternative medicine, it’s impossible to generalise about whether they work or not. Effectiveness might be judged by whether you feel better but it also may relate to measurable improvement in your condition or general well-being.

Are complementary and alternative medicines safe?

Complementary and alternative medicines are generally considered fairly safe, though some may have side-effects or may interact with other medicines.

Can I get complementary and alternative therapies on the NHS?

Most complementary and alternative medicines are not available on the NHS, but physical therapies such as acupuncture sometimes are.


Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles at particular points in your skin. It’s thought to relieve pain by diverting or altering painful sensations sent to your brain.

Alexander technique

The Alexander technique is about increasing awareness of body posture and movement to ease muscle tension and improve movement.


Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils, which can be inhaled, massaged into the skin or used in the bath.

Copper bracelets

Many people wear copper bracelets and they’re safe to use, although there’s no scientific evidence that they help arthritis.

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