It can be really confusing to differentiate between all the types and styles of medicine being practiced.
Here is a list of simple, one-line explanations to try to differentiate between various styles.
- Integrative medicine: an approach to health that takes into account the entirety or wholeness of an individual and uses a combination of conventional and alternative treatments.
- Alternative medicine: an approach to healing that falls outside of, and is used instead of, conventional medicine.
- Complementary medicine: an approach to healing that falls outside of, and is used in combination with, conventional medicine.
- Conventional medicine: the mainstream/western medical approach, which is taught in most medical schools and practiced in most hospitals and employs treatments such as surgery, pharmaceuticals, and pharmaceuticals.
- Functional medicine: a systems biology-based approach to medicine practiced by licensed physicians that focus on treating the root cause of disease, as opposed to treating symptoms. Most similar to Integrative Medicine.
- Lifestyle Medicine: the use of evidence-based 6 pillars of lifestyle therapeutic intervention as a primary modality, to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease.
- Whole person health: refers to helping individuals improve and restore their health in multiple interconnected domains—biological, behavioral, social, environmental—rather than just treating disease.
- Traditional medicine: healing practices that come out of the traditions of indigenous peoples.
- Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM): a collection of healing practices that originated in China and are based on the belief that free-flowing qi, or life energy, is the key to health.
- Naturopathy: an approach to health that taps into the innate healing power of our own bodies and the natural world.
- Ayurveda: “The Science of Life.” An ancient whole System of Medicine that originated thousands of years back in India and is wholistic, proactive, personalized, and preventive in its approach.
- Osteopathy: a medical approach that focuses on treating a person as a whole and uses physical manipulation of the body to promote healing.
These approaches include a variety of products, such as herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals, and probiotics. They are widely marketed, readily available to consumers, and often sold as dietary supplements.
Psychological and Physical Approaches
Complementary physical and/or psychological approaches include tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, art therapy, music therapy, dance, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and many others. These approaches are often administered or taught by a trained practitioner or teacher. The 2012 NHIS showed that yoga, chiropractic, and osteopathic manipulation, and meditation are among the most popular complementary health approaches used by adults.