Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM):A group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered an integral part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Some health care providers practice both CAM and conventional medicine.
Conventional medicine:A whole medical system practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Other terms for conventional medicine include allopathy; Western, mainstream, and orthodox medicine; and biomedicine.
Fibromyalgia:A complex chronic condition having multiple symptoms, including muscle pain, fatigue, and tenderness in precise, localized areas, particularly in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. People with this syndrome may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and other symptoms.
Meridian:A traditional Chinese medicine term for each of the 20 pathways throughout the body for the flow of qi, or vital energy, accessed through acupuncture points.
A study done to obtain information about a treatment's safety and side effects when given at different doses to animals or to cells grown in the laboratory.
Placebo:An inactive pill or sham procedure given to a participant in a research study as part of a test of the effects of another substance or treatment. Scientists use placebos to get a true picture of how the substance or treatment under investigation affects participants. In recent years, the definition of placebo has been expanded to include such things as aspects of interactions between patients and their health care providers that may affect their expectations and the study's outcomes.
Qi:A Chinese term for vital energy or life force. In traditional Chinese medicine, qi (pronounced "chee") is believed to regulate a person's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance, and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM):
A whole medical system that was documented in China by the 3rd century B.C. TCM is based on a concept of vital energy, or qi, that is believed to flow throughout the body. It is proposed to regulate a person's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming unbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and remedial massage.
NCCAM Publication No. D003
Date Revised: December 2004