Interest in alternative and wellness medicine is on the increase. In fact, it’s grown so much, that a whopping 65 percent of Americans seek out and use many differing types of alternative therapies, including chiropractic, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy and massage therapy as either their primary source of health care or as a supplement to modern, Western medicine.
While alternative medicine may seem new to some, it’s been around for a long time. For centuries, health was managed naturally through what is now termed traditional medicine, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says “refers to the knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, used in the maintenance of health and in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.”
The WHO also recognizes that traditional medicine has been used for thousands of years and boasts significant health contributions from its practitioners, who serve their communities as primary health care providers. Also known as alternative medicine or complementary medicine, traditional medicine has worldwide notoriety and has become even more popular since the 1990s.
The term alternative medicine generally refers to practices used independently of, or in place of, conventional medicine. There are approximately 42 different types of alternative medicine, but some of the most noted providers of alternative medicine include chiropractors, naturopaths, diet and nutritional therapists, environmental medicine practitioners, acupuncture specialists, massage therapists and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners.
But let’s look particularly at chiropractors, because many people choose chiropractors as their primary care physicians (PCPs). Even a decade ago, a study of Managed Care (HMO) indicated that those who use chiropractors as PCPs had improved patient outcomes—and achieved these results at substantially lower costs. Specifically, the study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) found that a managed care network consisting of chiropractors as PCPs provided equivalent care, while saving substantial costs, compared to patient management utilizing medical doctors and osteopaths.
Additionally, the study’s findings showed that there were far fewer patient hospital admissions and outpatient surgeries as well as only about half the cost for services for those seeing a chiropractor as their PCP. The study concluded that its findings demonstrated the chiropractic network’s “apparent superior clinical outcomes,” compared to conventional managed care statistics over the same period.
It’s also important to point out that many patients saw their chiropractors an average of twice a month or more, while modern medical physicians saw the majority of their patient on a “crisis-only” basis. Additionally, chiropractors gave information on diet and lifestyle modifications that could bolster health and help patients maintain that health in the future. In fact, chiropractors strive to treat the underlying condition, not just the symptoms—getting to the root cause of unhealth. What’s more is that chiropractic care is typically covered in health insurance plans.
And here’s the kicker, according to a 2002 Annals of Internal Medicine article: “Chiropractic is the largest, most regulated, and best recognized of the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) professions. CAM patient surveys show that chiropractors are used more often than any other alternative provider group, and patient satisfaction with chiropractic care is very high. There is steadily increasing patient use of chiropractic in the United States, which has tripled in the past two decades.”
And that’s what’s up, doc.