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Consumers are adding alternative therapies to their doctors orders,
says Consumer Reports

Three of four adults use some form of alternative therapy for general health, says a reader study published in the September issue of Consumer Reports and online at Consumer ReportsHealth.org.

The survey says readers haven't given up prescription drugs in favor of alternative therapies for the most common health problems. But they're still turning to chiropractic, deep-tissue massage, yoga and other alternative therapies as add-ons for discomfort from conditions such as back pain, neck pain and osteoarthritis.

The survey also suggests that meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga, are being used to treat a range of conditions including anxiety, headache and migraine, depression, and insomnia.

In addition, the report indicates that doctors are more open to alternative therapies than most people assume.

Some responses from the survey:

  • Prescription drugs helped the most for nine of the 12 conditions Consumer Reports Health asked about. They include allergies, anxiety, cold and flu, depression, digestive problems, headache and migraine, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and osteoarthritis. 
  • Meditation and yoga proved effective for treating anxiety and depression, almost equaling the effectiveness of prescription drugs. 
  • Yoga did about as well as meditation for insomnia but it significantly outperformed meditation for headaches and migraine and especially for back pain.         
  • For back pain, yoga, deep-tissue massage and Pilates all rated about the same as prescription medication. 
  • Chiropractic therapy outperformed all other alternative treatments. 
  • Meditation was helpful to almost a third of those few who tried it. 
  • For respiratory problems such as cold, flu and allergies, the survey found that very small numbers of readers tried deep-breathing exercises or chiropractic care. Those who did reported promising results. Although only 2 percent of cold, flu or allergy sufferers sought chiropractic care, more than 40 percent said it helped a lot. Similarly, 3 percent tried deep-breathing for allergies and 32 percent said it helped a lot. Three percent also tried deep-breathing for cold and flu and 35 percent said it helped a lot. 
  • Of alternative treatments used for general health, mainstream vitamins and minerals were the most widely used, with 73 percent of respondents taking them. 
  • Readers are keeping their doctors in the loop to varying degrees about their use of alternative therapies. For instance, 57 percent of people who got Shiatsu massage, usually for back or neck pain, said their doctors knew about it, and so did 81 percent of those who sought chiropractic care. Sixty-five percent of those who practiced progressive relaxation said their medical caregivers knew about it, as did 68 percent of readers who meditated. 
  • Smaller numbers of readers said their doctors had pointed them to an alternative therapy in the first place. Twenty-eight percent of readers who used deep-tissue massage, usually for back or neck pain, said their doctors had recommended it. So did 26 percent of people who used deep-breathing exercises and 21 percent who saw a chiropractor.


The report includes a brief user's guide for hands-on and mind-body therapy with an assessment of the evidence. The guide includes places to find alternative practitioners. 

People who decide to try alternative treatments should talk to their physician first to set realistic expectations for improvement.


Workplace Seated Massage Shown to Decrease Pain, Increase Flexibility

Massage therapy performed on site, such as in a corporate or business setting, is am important venue for hands-on health care. New research shows seated massage therapy decreased the duration of musculoskeletal ache, pain and discomfort, and increased range of motion in office workers.

The researchers set out to determine the effects of workplace massage interventions on the degree of joint range of motion and on the level of musculoskeletal ache, pain or discomfort experienced when performing workplace responsibilities, according to an abstract published on www.pubmed.gov.

Nineteen female volunteers, aged 40-54 years old, were given seated massage on-site in the workplace, twice per week for one month.

To measure the results, the Cornell Musculoskeletal Discomfort Questionnaire was used, and range-of-motion measurements in degrees were taken. Subjects completed a series of self-report questionnaires that asked for information concerning musculoskeletal discomfort of the neck, upper back and lower back in the form of a body diagram, the abstract noted. A range-of-motion test was performed with a goniometer to assess cervical lateral flexion, cervical flexion, cervical extension, lumbar flexion, and lumbar extension, the abstract noted.

Among the results:

  • There was a significant increase in range of motion for cervical lateral flexion and cervical extension.
  • There was a significant decrease in the Cornell Musculoskeletal Discomfort Questionnaire values for the neck and the upper back. "The effect of a corporate chair massage program on musculoskeletal discomfort and joint range of motion in office workers" was performed by researchers at the Institute of Kinesiology.








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