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Objectives. We analyzed how patients use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and examined how patients' perspectives relate to existing, expertled taxonomies. Methods. We conducted semistructured interviews with 46 people who used CAM in southern England, then performed a qualitative thematic analysis of the interviews. Results. CAM appeared to be used in 4 different ways: as treats, and as alternative, complementary, or conventional treatments. Treats were portrayed as personal luxuries, not directed at an identified health need. Systematic differences in the context, anticipated benefits, and implications for financial justification were revealed when nonmedical therapies were viewed and used as alternative, complementary, or conventional treatments. Specific CAM practices were viewed and used in different ways by different participants. Conclusions. Some participants used CAM practices as a personal luxury, not as a health care technology. This is incongruent with existing expert-led taxonomies. Physicians and researchers need to be aware that patients' views of what constitutes CAM can differ radically from their own. They should choose their terminology carefully to initiate meaningful dialogue with their patients and research participants.

Original publication

DOI

10.2105/AJPH.2007.110072

Type

Journal article

Journal

American Journal of Public Health

Publication Date

01/09/2008

Volume

98

Pages

1700 - 1705