Some massage therapists receive referrals from medical doctors. A new survey shows more than 75 percent of medical students believe patients would benefit if physicians were knowledgeable about complementary medicine—practices such as massage therapy and chiropractic—as well as conventional medicine. Almost three-quarters of respondents also say our medical system should include complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

In the largest national survey of its kind, researchers from UCLA and UC San Diego measured medical students’ attitudes and beliefs about CAM.

Among the results:

* 77 percent of participants agreed to some extent that patients whose doctors know about complementary and alternative medicine in addition to conventional medicine, benefit more than those whose doctors are only familiar with Western medicine.
* 74 percent of participants agreed to some extent that a system of medicine that integrates therapies of conventional and complementary and alternative medicine would be more effective than either type of medicine provided independently.
* 84 percent of participants agreed to some extent that the field contains beliefs, ideas and therapies from which conventional medicine could benefit.
* 49 percent of participating medical students indicated that they have used complementary and alternative treatments; however, few would recommend or use these treatments in their practices until more scientific assessment has occurred

“Complementary and alternative medicine is receiving increased attention in light of the global health crisis and the significant role of traditional medicine in meeting public health needs in developing countries,” said study author Ryan Abbott, a researcher at the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, in a press release. “Integrating CAM into mainstream health care is now a global phenomenon, with policy makers at the highest levels endorsing the importance of a historically marginalized form of health care.”

The findings were published recently in the online issue of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM).

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