Frustrated with ongoing symptoms that aren’t showing much improvement? Widen your health lens and consider complementary medicine. You’ll have company: Americans spend close to $34 billion annually on complementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, massage and natural products like herbs and dietary supplements.
But do complementary therapies work? Studies indicate mixed results, but many show promise. For example, a 2012 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that acupuncture effectively treats chronic pain. And a recent National Institutes of Health analysis of 17 studies showed that hatha yoga helps to reduce anxiety.
"Many of my patients are looking for solutions beyond pills," says Natalya Denissov, M.D., a Palo Alto Medical Foundation family medicine doctor. "Conventional medicine provides the foundation, but sometimes other options can help."
Increasing numbers of physicians use an integrative care approach, combining standard medicine with safe and effective complementary therapies. This method considers your nutrition, fitness, psychological well-being, stress levels and overall lifestyle to address your physical symptoms holistically.
Dr. Denissov often refers her patients to acupuncturists, exercise physiologists and naturopathic physicians. "The integrative approach isn’t blazing a new trail," she says. "This is how medicine used to be practiced, when doctors had more time to get to know a patient and discuss all aspects of his or her life."