ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: Popularity on the Rise
More people are turning to alternative therapies, and an increasing number are telling their doctors about it, according to an article in Consumer Reports. The rise in popularity comes as alternative therapies become more welcomed among both doctors and patients. As more insurers begin to cover such therapies, the treatment will become even more accepted. Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-founder of the Complementary Care Center, said, "Some patients may still find themselves rebuffed by physicians for seeking unconventional treatments, but it's getting less and less common." In a survey touted as "the largest and most detailed study of alternative medicine use in North America," the magazine surveyed 46,000 people, 16,000 of whom had used alternative therapies, such as nutritional supplements, deep tissue massage, chiropractics, accupressure, meditation or relaxation therapy. Survey participants were asked to report the two worst medical conditions they had experienced in the last two years.
More Tell Their Doctor
While the majority of conditions (58%) were treated conventionally, 25% were treated with both conventional and alternative therapies, and 9% were treated with alternative therapies alone. Sixty percent of respondents who used alternative therapies "felt comfortable enough to tell their doctors about their alternative choices," and 55% indicated that their doctor had approved of the therapy. Almost one out of four respondents indicated that they used an alternative based on their doctor's or nurse's recommendation. Those who tried herbal treatments on the advice of their health care provider or alternative practitioner were more likely to report good results than those who sought treatment on their own. Effectiveness and reason for using therapies varied. Thirty-five percent of participants who used alternative medicine said they did so seeking relief from symptoms that had not ceased with traditional treatment.
The majority who tried alternative therapies found them "very or somewhat helpful," but "some highly touted alternatives -- melatonin for insomnia, saw palmetto for prostate problems, magnets for pain -- scored poorly." As for why respondents did not choose alternative therapies, they indicated that either they were satisfied with conventional treatment, did not know enough about alternatives or distrusted alternatives. The magazine offers reader responses on 10 common medical conditions: allergies, arthritis, back pain, depression, headache, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insomnia, prostate problems and respiratory infections. Readers scored each treatment they used on a scale ranging from "made my condition worse" to "cured me completely" (May 2000 issue).