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Dr Russ Blog - Use of CAM therapies growing in the US
Use of CAM therapies growing in the US
Created on 1/16/2009

Findings from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)were published last month. The survey is launched each year to assess health- and illness-related experiences among the US population, and includes a section on CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) use. The findings show continued growth in use of CAM therapies among adults (up to 38.3% from 36.0%), with the most common health reasons for CAM use being pain (back, neck and joint), anxiety and high cholesterol.  

The study was performed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a branch of the NIH) and the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the CDC).

What is CAM? The definition shifts frequently, but many consider CAM therapies to be those not typically taught in US medical schools or used by conventional medical doctors. As more research is done, however, many treatments once deemed CAM are now generally considered mainstream medical interventions (like acupuncture).

I prefer the discussion focus on integrative medicine, which can be defined as healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and CAM.  

Some CAM therapies could be of benefit to us, but many have not yet been adequately studied to ensure both safety and effectiveness. Your doctor will likely be able to help you navigate the realm of CAM therapies safely, so always discuss your interest in and use of CAM therapies with your healthcare practitioner first.

For the first time the survey looked at CAM use in children and revealed a significant percentage of children being exposed to CAM therapies (12%). A smaller number of CAM therapies could be considered potentially beneficial in children, but it is very important to keep in mind that what may be safe in adults is often not safe in children, whose young minds and bodies are still growing and developing, and are thus extremely sensitive to external influences.

It can be hard to decide what you should or shouldn't use to help your children be optimally well. If you'd like some help in this regard, the second edition of "Healthy Child, Whole Child" (HarperCollins) comes out next week. I co-authored the book with a well-regarded pediatrician and health writer, and our first edition was named 'Best Parenting Guide 2001" by the editors at A recent reviewer kindly called it, 'The New Parenting Bible." Your library will likely have a copy soon, or you can purchase it at your local or online bookstore, even at many Harris Teeter stores.

To read the full NHIS report go to
Be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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