5 Differences Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine

Fortunately, there are multiple treatment options for various diseases. They range from the use of drugs and surgical procedures to the application of alternative or complementary measures. We explain it to you.
5 Differences Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine

Last update: 08 May, 2023

Medicine is the science of health in charge of the study of diseases, their prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Since its inception, this science has expanded and forked into numerous branches that seek to alleviate people’s ailments. Here are 5 differences between conventional and alternative medicine.

At present, modern or conventional medicine is the one that leads the field of health and primary care of diseases. However, complementary and alternative medicine are also popular in treating organic disorders. Both areas seek to improve the state of health, however, the science behind each one of them makes the difference.

What is conventional medicine?

Differences between conventional and alternative medicine include the supporting evidence
Modern treatments require strict development and application protocols, in order to maintain a certain degree of safety in each intervention.

Conventional or modern medicine is one that is based on scientific method. It also employs the detailed study of all the biochemical, physiological, and pathophysiological processes that affect the body. This science prioritizes evidence-based medicine and only accepts previously analyzed, standardized, and approved forms of treatment.

Generally, primary care physicians, emergency physicians, and specialist professionals adhere to the protocols of conventional medicine. Similarly, it’s useful in the approach to acute conditions, such as diarrhea, trauma and feverish diseases, as well as in the control of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.

This is an area that is constantly evolving and updating in order to offer better forms of treatment every day. Therapeutic options range from lifestyle changes and professionally guided therapies to the use of various types of medications according to the needs of each person.

What is alternative medicine?

Alternative medicine may also be called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It is a set of practices aimed at healing the body, whose scientific and theoretical bases are outside of conventional medical care. CAM is generally not governed by the scientific method and lacks a solid foundation for its application.

Some research suggests that complementary and alternative medicine encompasses a broad spectrum of practices including naturopathic, chiropractic, homeopathic, and mind-body medicine. Alternative medicine seeks to replace modern medical treatments, while complementary therapy is used in conjunction with conventional approaches.

Alternative practices remain popular due to the cultural and historical impact that prevails in many communities. However, the cultural component limits therapeutic evolution and adds spiritual, metaphysical, or religious elements that diminish scientific credibility.

Some of the CAM specialists require long professional and academic training, however, a wide variety of procedures aren’t under this formal accreditation. On the other hand, this therapy focuses on the treatment of long-standing chronic diseases, such as cancer and arthritis.

Differences between conventional and alternative medicine

Conventional medicine and alternative medicine or therapy define two aspects of health care with several differences in daily practice. The main distinctions arise from the scientific, theoretical, and historical bases on which each of them are based, within which the following stand out:

1. Application fundamentals

Alternative medicine is generally based on cultural or anecdotal concepts, as well as individualized results of certain therapeutic practices. For its part, the scientific method is the mainstay of conventional medicine. It uses population-based tests and standardized steps that guarantee reliable results.

In this sense, the concept of evidence-based medicine is one of the main differences between conventional and alternative therapy. Similarly, this fact delimits the rest of the distinctions between the two patterns of medical care.

2. Evolution and update

Conventional medicine is a science in continuous evolution and improvement. Studies affirm that the development of modern medicine in the last 50 years has made it possible to reduce global mortality and increase life expectancy considerably. This medical practice is susceptible to the adoption of new discoveries for the maintenance of population health.

On the other hand, alternative practices usually contemplate procedures that are transmitted from generation to generation as part of the cultural concept. For this reason, CAM presents difficulties in adapting to current findings and isn’t subject to changes in its treatment protocols. In addition, there are very few updated studies that give merit to the effectiveness of their results.

3. Effects on the body

At present, most conventional therapies are aimed at restoring the normal functioning of the body and slowing down the progression of diseases, thus favoring their resolution. Pharmacological therapies and surgical procedures are part of the arsenal of tools that are included in modern practices.

Alternative medicine uses techniques that seek to heal the body through physical stimuli or natural substances. However, the placebo effect is part of many alternative therapies. It is nothing more than the attenuation of some discomfort or condition as a consequence of a psychological stimulus, which originates from the belief in the efficacy of a treatment.

4. Evidence of safety and efficacy

All modern medical diagnostic and treatment tests have undergone continuous evaluation and strict monitoring studies. For this reason, people can know not only the effectiveness and prognosis of a conventional medical therapy, but also the risks and adverse effects associated with it.

This fact represents one of the great differences between alternative therapy and conventional medicine. In this sense, most CAM procedures have very few studies that certify their effectiveness. Furthermore, application safety and risks are often uncertain, or determined by previous results of non-standardized individual cases.

5. Forms of treatment

The differences between conventional and alternative medicine include its method of use
Both conventional and modern medicine are very varied, including the use of substances or more or less invasive procedures.

At present, conventional treatments are the most used in the approach and prevention of acute and chronic pathologies. Some of the modern treatment options include the following:

  • Medicines
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Immunizations or vaccinations
  • Behavioral therapy

Alternative therapies show wide popularity in developed and developing countries. Research suggests that 46% of Australians, 49% of French and 70% of Canadians use alternative treatments. Among the main forms of treatment are the following:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Homeopathy
  • Meditation
  • Naturopathy
  • Chinese traditional medicine

Seek professional help before starting alternative therapy

Conventional medicine and alternative therapy show great differences in the efficacy and safety of treatment. In some cases, the use of both therapies in an integrative way can offer a better prognosis and a longer life expectancy. For this reason, professionals recommend seeking specialized care before trying alternative therapy.

Medical specialists are the only ones trained to make the timely diagnosis of diseases and provide the best therapeutic options. In addition, the application of any therapy without medical supervision can have great repercussions for the state of health and worsen the clinical condition.

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