The term ‘complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)’ covers any medical and healthcare practice that is not part of mainstream or conventional medicine
There are many types of CAM. A few have been well researched and have some scientific basis, while others are based on a range of theories that are not supported by current scientific knowledge. Some forms of CAM—e.g. Chinese/herbal medicines and vitamin supplements — should always be avoided by anyone with kidney disease. Others (e.g. massage, meditation) are unlikely to do you any harm and may help you to cope better with your symptoms. It has been found in some cases that acupuncture can reduce pain, and meditation can help to reduce blood pressure.
If you decide to try CAM:
- Before embarking on any form of treatment, get the go-ahead from your doctor to make sure that you will not harm your health.
- Never, never, ever stop a treatment prescribed by your doctor just on the advice of a CAM practitioner.
- You may well have to pay for each session of your treatment. Although your GP may be able to refer you for some CAM therapies, local health organisations are limiting access to these treatments, citing lack of evidence for their effectiveness and safety, as well as many other calls on limited NHS resources.
- Choose a CAM practitioner who is a member of an independent professional organisation that has standards for qualification, a code of practice, and insurance to cover you if there are problems.
- Find out as much information as possible about the treatment you want to try: what are its benefits? Is it safe? What are the side effects? Does it interact with treatments from your doctor?
- Remember the power of the placebo (dummy treatment). Did you feel better because the practitioner was able to spend a long time discussing your problems? And would your problem perhaps have gotten better without any treatment?
- If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So be sceptical of claims to cure ADPKD—often only in exchange for large amounts of your money.
There is a helpful description of the various CAM disciplines in the Sixth Report of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee (2000).
For a list of CAM professional bodies, go to the website of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine.