Conventional medicine is defined as medicine practiced by holders of medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Conventional medicine commonly utilizes clinical studies, clinical trials, and peer-reviewed literature to help determine efficacy and safety.
Large population-based surveys have found that the use of alternative medicine (i.e., unproven non-mainstream practices used in place of conventional medicine) is rare. Integrative health care, defined as a comprehensive, often interdisciplinary approach to treatment, prevention, and health promotion that brings together complementary and conventional medicine, is more common. The intent of an integrative approach is to enhance overall health, prevent disease, and to alleviate debilitating symptoms such as pain and stress and anxiety management that often affects individuals coping with complex and chronic disease, among others. However, unlike conventional medicine which relies upon carefully designed trials and research, the scientific foundation for many complementary health approaches are generally not supported by clinical evidence because their effectiveness and safety is unproven in medical literature.
The NCCIH classifies complementary health approaches not considered an integral part of conventional medicine into five broad categories: