More than a third of Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and that number continues to rise attributed mostly to increases in the use of mind-body therapies (MBT) like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. “There’s good evidence to support using mind-body therapies clinically,” says Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, an integrative medicine fellow at Harvard Medical School. “Still, we didn’t expect to see provider referral rates that were quite so high.”
Nerurkar and her colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey. Nearly 6.3 million people used mind-body therapies after referral by a mainstream medical provider, the study found. These people tended to be sicker and used the health-care system more than people who started using the therapies without a referral.
“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.”
source: A. Nerurkar, G. Yeh, R. B. Davis, G. Birdee, R. S. Phillips. (2011). When conventional medical providers recommend unconventional medicine: results of a national study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(9), 862. More on mind-body therapies.