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updated 5/9/2011 4:32:35 PM ET 2011-05-09T20:32:35

Doctors may be more accepting of certain complementary and alternative medicine therapies, such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing, than they have been in the past, a new study suggests.

The results show about 3 percent of Americans use such mind-body therapies because of a referral from a physician.

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Evidence is growing to support the use of mind-body therapies as a clinical treatment, said study researcher Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, of Harvard Medical School. "Still, we didn't expect to see provider referral rates that were quite so high."

In 2007, 38 percent of Americans used complementary and alternative medicine (referred to by researchers as CAM). Mind-body therapies, which include things like yoga and tai chi, are a type of CAM. Use of CAM in the United States has increased since 2002, with mind-body therapies comprising 75 percent of the rise, the researchers say.

But little is known about whether individuals use mind-body therapies as a result of a conventional doctor's recommendation.

Nerurkar and colleagues collected information from more than 23,000 U.S. households from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. They found more than 6.3 million Americans used mind-and-body therapies due to provider referral. That compares with 34.8 million who were self-referred. Those who were referred to mind-body therapies by their doctors tended to be sicker and used the health care system more than people who self-referred.

"What we learned suggests that providers are referring their patients for mind-body therapies as a last resort once conventional therapeutic options have failed," Nerurkar said. "It makes us wonder whether referring patients for these therapies earlier in the treatment process could lead to less use of the health care system, and possibly, better outcomes for these patients," she said.

The study was published today (May 9) in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Pass it on: About one in 30 Americans use mind-body therapies due to a physician's referral. The findings indicate these therapies may be becoming a more mainstream approach to care, researchers say.

 

 

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