Doctors Prescribing Meditation, Yoga More Often

Study authors say earlier use of such treatments might benefit health-care system

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THURSDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Mind-body therapies such as yoga, meditation and deep-breathing exercises appear to be gaining more acceptance in mainstream medicine, according to a new study.

Mind-body therapy is used by more than one-third of Americans, and that number is rising, the researchers noted. They found that one in 30 Americans using some type of mind-body therapy was referred to the treatment by a medical provider.

"There's good evidence to support using mind-body therapies clinically," the study's lead author, Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, an integrative medicine fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a news release from Beth Israel. "Still, we didn't expect to see provider referral rates that were quite so high."

Nerurkar and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 23,000 households that took part in the 2007 U.S. National Health Interview Survey. Nearly 3 percent of the people in those households, or about 6.3 million people, used mind-body therapies after referral by a mainstream medical provider, the study found. These people tended to be sicker and used the health-care system more than people who started using the therapies without a referral.

"What we learned suggests that providers are referring their patients for mind-body therapies as a last resort once conventional therapeutic options have failed," Nerurkar said. "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."

The study is published in the May 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"These data suggest that mind-body therapies have really become a mainstream approach to care," Dr. Russell Phillips, chief of primary care at Beth Israel and the study's senior author, said in the news release. "But more research is needed to guide physician and patient decision-making regarding their use."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about mind-body therapy.

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