Trend watch: more US doctors prescribing yoga, meditation

Doctor-prescribed downward dogs? A new study in the US reveals that more and more American doctors are recommending that their patients seek out yoga, tai chi, meditation, and deep breathing.

A new Harvard University study published May 9 found that more than 6.3 million Americans use mind-body therapies based on a referral from their physicians. That compares to the some 34.8 million who seek these therapies out themselves without doctor’s orders.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 70 percent of the world's population uses alternative medicine. Despite varying attitudes in different countries regarding alternative therapies, experts say that many international physicians still feel relatively unequipped to advise patients seeking information about alternative treatments, and many in the medical community remain highly skeptical of their potential value.

Interestingly, in the study, 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 sought the therapies themselves.

"What we learned suggests that providers are referring their patients for mind-body therapies as a last resort once conventional therapeutic options have failed," said lead researcher Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, of Harvard Medical School in a statement. "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.”

A study published earlier this year backs up the growing support of alternative medicines in the US, citing up to an 18 percent increase in the use of complementary therapies in recent years among Americans.

The latest study was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. To access: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/171/9/862

 

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