It’s been said many times that there is no alternative medicine---there’s that which has been proven to work and that which has not. But it isn’t always that simple. Some legitimate non-pharmacologic therapies, such as those employing diet, exercise, and relaxation (and perhaps music) are often co-opted under the CAM umbrella. That creates problems as these therapies are lumped with others whose advocates accept a lower standard of scientific proof or no proof at all, thus blurring the distinction between science and woo. Worse, these evidence based but “soft” non-pharmacologic modalities may be the initial focus of academic departments of integrative medicine, providing a foot in the door of academic medicine for real woo to come later. As Orac recently pointed out the CAM academic department becomes a Trojan horse:
Since when did using dietary interventions as medical treatment for heart disease become "alternative," CAM, or integrative, rather than just medicine? Forgive me, but most of this is nothing more than mainstream medicine repackaged as CAM to sell it to a credulous public. True, such "soft" interventions as hypnotism, relaxation,acupuncture, and massage are included, but most of the interventions discussed would not be out of place in the paradigm of "conventional" medicine, which makes me wonder why they are called "alternative." In reality, what bothers me about the whole concept of CAM is that it's basically a Trojan horse through which some therapies that might be evidence-based and could easily be integrated into our standard armamentarium of medical therapies are the "foot in the door" behind which hardcore woo lumped together as CAM follow, woo such as homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, reiki, and even reflexology, all of which I have encountered on wepages for academic centers devoted to CAM.