FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Three out of every four U.S.
health-care workers use some form of complementary or alternative
medicine or practice to help stay healthy, a new report shows.
What's more, doctors, nurses and their assistants, health
technicians, and healthcare administrators were actually
more likely than the general public to use any number of
wide-ranging alternative medicine options, including massage, yoga,
acupuncture, Pilates or herbal medicines.
"No one has really done this sort of analysis before, so when I saw our results I was authentically surprised," acknowledged study co-author Lori Knutson, executive director of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing with the Allina Health System in Minneapolis. "But pleasantly so. Because clearly this means that even our health-care workers are recognizing the need for alternative options in the search for ways to improve our health and lives."
Knutson and her colleagues reported their findings this month in
Health Services Research.
According to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health),
about 38 percent of Americans currently avail themselves of some
form of complementary/alternative medicine, which can also include
dietary supplements, meditation, chiropractic services, Pilates,
and Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.
The poll data, collected in 2007 as part of the National Health
Interview Survey, looked at use among a nationally representative
sample of more than 14,300 working adults 18 years old and up.
About 1,300 of those surveyed were health-care providers and
workers employed in either a hospital or ambulatory
The survey covered 36 different forms of options, including
therapies involving body manipulation, mind-body and
biological-based therapies, and energy-healing treatments.
Doctors and nurses were found to be more than twice as likely as
non-clinical health-care support workers to have tried out a
practitioner-based complementary or alternative medicine service
(such as a chiropractor) in the past year.
They were also almost three times as likely to have
"self-treated" using complementary/alternative approaches versus
their technical or administrative colleagues.
Overall, health-care workers were found to be bigger users of
complementary/alternative medicine than those outside the
health-care industry. Seventy-six percent of health-care workers
said they had used such methods in the past year, compared to 63
percent of people working in non-healthcare fields.
And even when diets, vitamins, minerals, and/or herbal
supplements were excluded from the range of options, health-care
workers were still significantly more likely to have tried out a
complementary medicine product or service over the prior year than
the general public (41 percent versus 30 percent.)
But the reasons health-care workers turned to
alterative/complementary medicine were similar to those seen
elsewhere, with back, neck and joint pain being the three most
"In general, Western culture has believed that complementary services and techniques aren't as well-researched and evidence-based as conventional medicine," noted Knutson. "But that is certainly no longer the case. And so what I hope comes from this insight into practitioner use of complementary options is an opening up of the conversation between providers and patients about the use and potential of alternative medicine."
Judy Blatman, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based
Council for Responsible Nutrition, which represents the supplements
industry, seconded that notion.
"These results are not surprising, as in fact we've had similar findings looking at health-care practitioner attitudes and uses regarding dietary supplements," she noted. "So this is consistent with out own research."
"And I would agree," said Blatman, "that seeing that the very people who are considered to be the leaders in health are themselves more and more willing to go beyond what was a traditional model of treatment could be very helpful to consumers. Because we find that often patients feel uncomfortable talking to their providers about non-traditional disciplines for fear of being discounted. So this should put everyone more at ease."
Experts typically advise that any patient who turned to an
alternative or complementary therapy first consult with their
Because dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration in the same way traditional medicines are,
and some supplements interact with traditional medicines, patients
should also talk with their doctors before taking supplements and
keep their physicians current on any supplements or alternative
medicines they are using.
For more on complementary and alternative medicine, visit the
U.S. National Center for Complementary and A...rnative
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