Aditi Nerurkar BIDMCFor individuals who’ve resorted to mind-body therapy (MBT) as a health care option lately, there’s seemingly no reason to cover up. The simple reason being they’re not alone. An alarmingly increasing number of Americans, precisely a third allegedly use some means of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). If investigators from the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) are to be believed, then what’s even more astonishing is the fact that one in 30 Americans using MBT had been assigned by a medical provider.

MBT includes yoga, deep breathing exercises and meditation. Earlier findings indicate MBT though employed by millions of patients, is still on the borderline as far being considered as as mainstream medical care in America is concerned. So are attitudes changing? Apparently yes. Information from over 23,000 U.S. households was garnered from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Approximately 3 percent of people had put MBT to use courtesy of provider referral. Moreover the referred Americans were sicker and their use of the health care system was higher in comparison to individuals who were self-referred.

“There’s good evidence to support using mind-body therapies clinically,” suggests lead author Aditi Nerurkar, MD, Integrative Medicine Fellow, Harvard Medical School and BIDMC. “Still, we didn’t expect to see provider referral rates that were quite so high.”

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

According to Russell Phillips, MD, Chief of Primary Care at BIDMC and the senior author on the study, these data indicate MBT to transform into a mainstream approach to care. However, it will need more investigation on how physicians and patient decision-making can be guided pertaining to their use.

The May 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine features the results of this study.