Physicians for the most part are not comfortable discussing alternative health therapies with their patients. In Colorado, a survey of 276 physicians was conducted on their attitude toward alternative medicine; the results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. To sum up the results, the majority of doctors seldom enquired from patients about their use of alternative therapy. Approximately 17 percent did not raise the subject of alternative therapies; 23 percent enquired about patient use of alternative therapies and 8 percent always asked patients about the use of alternative therapies.
The study found that many doctors had a negative attitude toward alternative therapies and preferred not to discuss the possibilities with patients or recommend therapies to patients. Doctors feel uncomfortable discussing the subject and many prefer to remain neutral on the topic.
The study also highlighted some surprising facts including the fact that as much as 50 percent of the doctors who participated in the survey had actually recommended alternative health therapies to patients. In addition, approximately 25 percent of the doctors had personally used alternative medicine. The favored alternative health therapies used by doctors include relaxation therapy, massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture and alternative medicine.
As much as 60 percent of the doctors surveyed expressed interest in learning about alternative health therapies, about 24 percent were ambivalent about wanting to learn about these therapies and 16 percent were opposed to learning anything about alternative therapies.
The therapies physicians prefer to recommend to patients include massage therapy, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, chiropractic, yoga, hypnosis, herbal medicine, biofeedback and alternative medicine.
Alternative health therapies are generally best described as healing or treatment methods that do not fall within the boundaries of traditional medicine. Alternative therapy may be based on beliefs, folklore, spiritualism or futuristic theories. Many of these theories and practices are untested and in some cases are newly developed approaches to treating illnesses.
Mainstream medicine has always been the biggest critic of alternative health therapies. However, there is evidence that in recent years alternative therapies have grown in popularity among patients and doctors. Another study worth mentioning that supports this claim is the one conducted by Leigh Callahan and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A surprising 84 percent of the physicians surveyed were in favor of the provision of adequate funding for a number of alternative therapies. Majority of the doctors surveyed held the belief that some alternative therapies did work and the subject should be discussed with patients.
Alternative therapies are commonly considered to be safe with minimal or no side effects. Many of the therapies in practice have been effective in helping to alleviate pain and negative side effects caused by contemporary medicine. In many instances, alternative therapies have been grouped with complementary medicine under the inclusive term complementary and alternative therapy or CAM.
There is a positive trend towards learning about alternative health therapies and a good example of how alternative medicine is being incorporated into mainstream medicine. Many medical institutions across the United States have begun teaching about therapies such as acupuncture and herbal therapy. Alternative therapies and their effects on the body are now being taught together with anatomy and physiology.
Statistics show that the U.S. government has already spent in excess of 22 million dollars to promote the teaching of alternative medicine in medical and nursing schools and colleges. But regardless of Uncle Sam’s efforts to bring alternative medicine to a recognizable standard, critics who consider it a wasted effort over unproven remedies still abound.
For the benefit of anyone contemplating alternative health therapies, one thing that needs to be clearly understood and cannot be stressed enough is the importance of discussing any planned alternative therapy with a physician before starting treatment. Be wary of treatments advertising miracle cures – in all honesty such cures do not exist except in the minds of con-men. Research is key to finding out about good alternative therapies that work. The internet is filled with information, but discretion is advised in selecting the right information. Two or even three medical opinions need to be sought before making a final decision.
There are alternative therapies that work and those that do not; a lot depends on the individual’s choice of therapy and the practitioner.