More Americans are turning to forms of complementary medicine such as yoga, meditation and chiropractors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, says in reports released Thursday that more than 30% of US adults and about 12% of children use “healthcare approaches that are not typically part of conventional medical care or that may have origins outside of usual Western practices.”
Complementary medicine is when these practices are used alongside conventional medicine.
“Many people turn to complementary health approaches, such as yoga and meditation, in order to help with symptom management, such as pain. As well, they turn to these approaches for a general sense of wellbeing,” Richard Nahin, the lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and co-author of the reports, wrote in an email.
The reports, which were compiled using data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Interview Survey, looked at the use of yoga, meditation and chiropractors between 2012 and 2017.
The practice of yoga rose from 3.1% of the overall child population in 2012 to 8.4% in 2017 and from 9.5% to 14.3% in adults, equating to about 4.9 million children and 35.2 million adults doing yoga in 2017.
Meditation use went up from 0.6% of children in 2012 to 5.4% in 2017 and from 4.1% of adults in 2012 to 14.2% of adults in 2017.
The use of chiropractors in children stayed essentially the same – about 3.5% of children visited chiropractors in both years. There was a small difference for adults, from 9.1% in 2012 to 10.3% in 2017.
More females are doing yoga in both age groups in 2017: 11.3% of girls, compared with 5.6% of boys, and 19.8% of women, compared with 8.6% of men.
Meditation and chiropractors were more popular with adult women surveyed, but in children, the rates of use between boys and girls were similar.
Among children, those between 12 and 17, were the most likely to either meditate or visit a chiropractor.
For adults, yoga was found to be most popular with 18- to 44-year-olds, and meditation and chiropractors were used most by those in the 45-to-64 age group.
Racially, white non-Hispanics were the most likely to use all three methods in both age groups.
Though the patterns of use were the same as in previous years for children, according to the report, there were changes in adult usage.
“The popularity of meditation surpassed that of seeing a chiropractor to become the second most-used approach among those examined in 2017,” the report said.
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All three methods of complementary medicine appear to have health benefits, Nahin said. Yoga may improve general well-being, and evidence is increasing that it helps with some aspects of wellness, including mental health and stress management. It can also helps relieve lower back and neck pain.
He also noted that research suggests that meditation can help with medical problems, including symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and that the spinal manipulation of chiropractic research could help low back pain as well as problems such as whiplash-associated disorders.