Who Tries Unconventional Therapy?

This study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of unconventional mind and body relaxation therapies like tai chi, yoga, qi gong, guided imagery, deep-breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. The use of such therapies as part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been on the rise in a large number of Americans. Most medical providers recommend these therapies as a supplement to other conventional medical therapies. The authors of this study looked at patients whose medical providers recommended mind-body therapies (MBT) to them as a supplement to an ongoing conventional therapy, comparing them with those who chose the therapies on their own without any referral from medical providers.

Since 2002, the rate of increase in the use of CAM by Americans has been on the rise; MBT constitutes 75 percent of such CAM. This kind of medical treatment involves therapies that work on the mind as well as the body. In 2007, about 38 percent of Americans were reportedly using such unconventional medical treatments. Most people opt for this sort of alternative medical treatment of their own accord, while many others opt for it when their medical providers recommend it as a supplement to conventional therapy. This study evaluated the conditions under which patients were referred to MBT by their therapists and under what circumstances patients chose MBT on their own.

* The data for this study was collected from the National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted by interviewing people from randomly chosen American households. The data collected in 2007 was used for this analysis.
* Out of the 23,393 people interviewed, 4,296 had used a mind-body therapy in the past year.
* Those who were asked to follow the mind-body therapy by their regular doctor were analyzed for age, sex, education, salary, localities, marital status, and insurance.
* Their general health history, current health concerns, health-related habits (drinking, smoking, exercising, etc.), and weight were also noted. Their visits to medical facilities and the reasons for those visits in the past year were also noted.

* It was found that 2.9 percent of the interviewed people were suggested by their doctors to take mind-body therapy, as opposed to the 15.5 percent who chose it of their own accord.
* The age of those who were prescribed the therapy was slightly more, and they mostly undertook deep-breathing exercises. The next most-common form of MBT was meditation followed by yoga.
* Many of those who were prescribed with mind-body therapy suffered from chronic health conditions. There was a positive correlation between the prescribed therapy and mental health issues. Alcohol abusers were less likely to be prescribed the therapy.

Shortcomings/Next steps
It remains to be seen whether unconventional medical treatments can help in decreasing the amount of health care required by patients and in improving the outcome of conventional medical therapies when recommended early in treatment. The effects of certain types of mind-body treatments on certain health problems need to be studied based on recommendations of the health care providers.

This study found that patients suffering from chronic, long-term, and multiple health conditions were mostly recommended to use mind-body therapies by their physicians when compared to those who were self-referred. They were also most likely to visit medical facilities more often and use insurance. Many chronic health conditions result in corresponding health problems (obesity, high cholesterol, etc.), and these patients are more likely to be prescribed mind-body therapies. It seems possible that the physician recommends this mode of unconventional treatment when the conventional medicine fails. Most patients suffering from anxiety and mental problems have tried using unconventional medical treatments. Mind-body treatment has been successful in treating most cases of substance abuse, but these patients seem to use it the least.

For More Information:
When Conventional Medical Providers Recommend Unconventional Medicine: Results of a National Study
Publication Journal: Archives of Internal Medicine, May 9, 2011
By Aditi Nerurkar; Gloria Yeh
From the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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