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Vol. LXI, No. 4
February 20, 2009
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Americans Continue To Use Complementary, Alternative Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use remains popular among Americans. Approximately 38 percent of adults in the United States and nearly 12 percent of U.S. children use some form of CAM, according to a new nationwide survey. CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not generally considered to be part of conventional medicine. It includes herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic or osteo-pathic manipulation and acupuncture.

The survey, conducted as part of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, was developed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the CDC.

“The 2007 NHIS provides the most current, comprehensive and reliable source of information on Americans’ use of CAM,” said Dr. Josephine Briggs, NCCAM director. “These statistics confirm that CAM practices are a frequently used component of Americans’ health care regimens and reinforce the need for rigorous research to study the safety and effectiveness of these therapies. The data also point out the need for patients and health care providers to openly discuss CAM use to ensure safe and coordinated care.”

Comparison of the data from the 2002 and 2007 surveys suggests that overall use of CAM among adults in the past 12 months has remained relatively steady—36 percent in 2002 and 38 percent in 2007. However, there has been variation in the use of some specific CAM therapies, for example, deep breathing, meditation, massage therapy and yoga all showed significant increases.

Adults used CAM most often to treat pain including back pain or problems, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness/other joint condition, arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Overall, CAM use among children is nearly 12 percent. Children are five times more likely to use CAM if a parent or other relative uses it. Among children, CAM therapies were used most often for back or neck pain, head or chest colds, anxiety or stress, other musculoskeletal problems and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The survey also shows that children use a variety of natural products. NIHRecord Icon

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