Friday, January 30, 2009

NIH surveys on use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

I was looking around the National Institute of Health's (NIH) website the other day, and found the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). I had no idea this even existed and found it interesting to see what sort of research they are doing in the area of alternative medicine. Now as a caveat I would add that I don't necessarily need NIH to validate alternative medicine and after being a nurse for 14 years I've learned to read between the lines of "studies". There are really so many variables encountered in any study that you really have to weigh what the study actually proves or disproves. What does encourage me about this is that I hope that the NIH has heard the masses, that we want natural ways of healing, less invasive procedures, and real cures.

Consider these interesting statistics and facts from a survey completed in 2007:

  • In 2007, 4 out of 10 adults had used some sort of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM).

  • The most commonly used CAM therapies include non-vitamin, non-mineral, natural products; deep breathing exercises; meditation; chiropractic care; yoga; massage; and diet-based therapies.

  • The most commonly used non vitamin, non mineral, natural products used by adults for health reasons in the past 30 days were fish oil or omega 3 or DHA, glucosamine, echinacea, flax seed oil or pills, and ginseng.

  • The prevalence of many individual therapies was similar between 2002 and 2007, acupuncture, deep breathing exercises, massage therapy, meditation, naturopathy, and yoga showed significant increases.

  • CAM therapies are most often chosen for back pain or back problems, head or chest colds, neck pain or neck problems, joint pain or stiffness, anxiety or depression, and less prevalent, but still used to treat symptom relief for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung diseases.

  • CAM is more prevalent among women, among adults who had higher educational attainment or who engage in leisure-time physical activity, as well as among adults who had one or more existing health conditions or who made frequent medical visits in the prior year.

While I think we as a nation have a long way to go in pursuing complementary and alternative medicine, it's encouraging to see the interest that is out there both from the public and NIH. I will look forward to seeing more data from their website and will share with you.


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