Primary Care Physician
Dr. Orrange received her BA in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, and a Masters Degree in Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. She received her MD from the USC Keck School of…
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), who's using it and why?
Posted in Acne by Dr. Sharon Orrange on Feb 17, 2009

Thirty eight percent of us use complementary and alternative medicine to treat our ailments. I read with great surprise results of the National Health Interview Survey which asked 23,500 adults about the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). I work in Los Angeles where the use of CAM is popular and I thought I knew the demographics but here are the realities of who is using it, what they are using and why.

The 10 most common CAM therapies among adults

1. Natural Products (a wide category I know)

2. Deep breathing

3. Meditation (the use of meditation has risen dramatically from 2002 to 2007)

4. Chiropractic and Osteopathic

5. Massage

6. Yoga (use of Yoga has also significantly increased from 2002 to 2007)

7. Diet-based therapies

8. Progressive Relaxation

9. Guided Imagery

10. Homeopathic treatment

Why are patients using Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

1. Back pain (by far number 1 with 17% of people using CAM using it for back pain)

2. Neck pain

3. Joint pain

4. Arthritis

5. Anxiety

6. Cholesterol

7. Head or chest cold

8. Other musculoskeletal

9. Headache or migraine

10. Insomnia

Some interesting facts about who is using Complementary and Alternative Medicine

1. The MOST common age group was 50-59 (I was surprised by this), with 60-69 a close second.

2. More women than men use CAM by about 10%.

3. Those with higher levels of education (master's, doctorate or professional 55.4%)

4. Those living in the West (44.6%)

5. Those who have quit smoking (48.1%)

What are the 10 most common natural products used by adults?

1. Fish oil/Omega 3

2. Glucosamine

3. Echinacea

4. Flaxseed oil/pills

5. Ginseng

6. Combination herb pills

7. Ginkgo biloba

8. Chondroitin

9. Garlic supplements

10. Coenzyme Q-10


Dr O.

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would u email me the above, computer being I WANTED TO SAVE IT!
By mickky  Feb 27, 2009
Dear Dr. Orrange,

Thank you for bringing this topic up. I'm using alternative treatments for everything (even for treating my pets) since way over 30 years. Even for my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue I use alternative treatments. Although I must admit that it took me YEARS of trial and error and then thousands of dollars to find out the right methods and combination. Nobody could assist me on that and it was a lonly route. But now I'm happy that I can say that I'm pain free and symptome free since 4 years - with alternative treatments ONLY. I first had to find the right combination. This is proof for me that it always pays to never give up.

Thank you for your great work.
By Healthfreedom  Feb 22, 2009
I am quaified as an ND [California actually] and also a PhD for immunology....why cos I was ill for 50 years here in the UK and no one did anything to find the cause except to put me onto a fruit diet when I ws ill. Had recurrent runs from fat etc and then diagnosed in 1968, first time they looked at me and it was caused by 'nerves and high IQ'..Stetorrhoea!!! Well I laughed at them but still did not know.

I live in the UK by the way, am not USA but did my qualifications over in Palm Springs

In 1994 aftr 50 yers I found the cause myself it was undigested milk fat. It was also found that I was coelaic. Then my diet changed no wheat, yeast, dairy, pineapple, herbs, spices, parsley, and so on. I could not walk for 14 years and after 36 hours of coming off dairy foods I could....

I have rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and osteoporosis but am allergic to penincillin, salylates, and so on, the result of the wrong diet for 50 years. This made me get the PhD and learn medicine.

I cannot have any painkillers. My painkillers are aromatherapy, Tai chi, katsu - Chinese medicine applied], and so on. Do look at my web site

Moggy any comments do let me have them.
By Moggy  Feb 21, 2009
I am a 66 year old woman who uses CAM everyday. I use it for my cholesterol because I can't take any of the statins. I have had bad reactions to both. I also use CAM for my joint and muscle pains. I had Eastern Equine Encephalitis when I was a teen, and as the years went by the left over adverse effects came to the forefront. The fishoil capsules help me quite a bit for both problems. I just got thru with treatment for colon cancer, actually rectal cancer, with no spread to lymph nodes or other organs. I believe the vitamins and supplements I took heled keep this from spreading. One pharmacist in my oncologist's office read my list of supplements and said I had a pretty 'hot' list of things, and wanted to know why I took it all. I laughed and said because I am cancer phobic! We all had a good laugh about it, but I believe it did help me, because I was neglectful when I first had symptoms. It took me 7 months before I decided I SHOULD have a colonoscopy and was told I had cancer. I now take Essiac Tea every morning as well as my vitamins and supplements. I learned from a friend that had the same cancer, that his aunt was terminal with another cancer, was sent home to say goodbye and put her affairs in order. She started taking essiac tea twice a day, and she is still alive now 10 years later!!! I researched the tea. Liked what I read, and I am now taking it myself. Before any of these CAM's, I used to suffer from horrible migraines, probably due to the EEE. Nothing helped, and I was going thru lots of fiorinol that wasn't working. SO I went to a Chinese acupuncturist. He was marvelous. He told me he would get me off those pills, and get rid of my headaches. I just laughed and didn't believe him. BUt slowly I was having just regular headaches, and not every day....and before I knew it I didn't have migraines anymore. It has been about 20 years since I had a horrible migraine. Sometimes my migraines would last for 39 days. I also take CoQ10 to protect my heart. And it is so nice to see conventional MD's listening now at the results of some of us that use CAM, and also suggesting things to their patients like fish oil capsules etc. I feel very fortunate to have gone thru all that I have, and still I am able to enjoy my life and family. I think a combo of conventional medicine and CAM's help and compliment therapy.
By BAP6  Feb 21, 2009
Diet has helped me tremendously with the pain. I try to eat 70% alkaline foods, primarily organic veges, fruit, almonds, & eggs, and 30% acidic foods, meat, fish, grains, beans, nuts, & yogurt. I try to avoid triggers such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, canned & processed foods, red meat & shell fish. After about a week, I really found that I didn't miss any of the omitted foods, and I felt satisfied with the healthy foods. I look forward to warmer weather, as I will eat more of the veges raw instead of cooked. It is hard for me to eat a cold salad if the weather is cold. Funny, a cold fruit protein smoothie in the morning doesn't seem to bother me. If the pain, fatigue, immobility & deformity won't make us change our unhealthy lifestyle, what will? I was scared into it, but the positive results are worth it!
By 2Young2BeOld  Feb 20, 2009
I'm assuming you meant 42.8% of all women, and 33.5% of all men... other wise I'd question your math skills. just kidding.

I know I have had to resort to using diet to control the symptoms of many of my illnesses. But that is simply because my liver will not tolerate conventional medicine. I have however found it to be equally, and in some cases more effective than just taking a pill.

The thing with using diet however, is you have to be diligent and not stray from it, in order for it to work. My regular Dr. has actually been my greatest encourager, especially after she saw the results. By following a vegetarian / pectarian diet, I no longer have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Also, my need for pain killers for headaches and arthritis, has dropped dramatically. I still have bouts of severe pain, that can last a long time, but it is not quite as bad as it used to be, when I ate things that I now know can trigger the pain.
By Testycatlady  Feb 20, 2009
Would street drugs be classified as CAM ?
By XoDustinXo  Feb 19, 2009
RayofLight7....Spiritual healers are needed...and I for one am grateful to have had several people guide me in my search for CAM modalities..which, by the way, has included a great deal of spirituality and learning to let go of my ego-ravaged self...It's not all about me, but rather, I am all about It...and IT, for me, is the love of my creator.
Thank you for being here to help and not ever giving are needed...
By marymargaret  Feb 19, 2009
I am a licensed massage therapist and have been making my living through that for the last three years. Actually, though, I am a spiritual healer. Massage is a wonderful tool to relax people and my clients receive a lot of benefits from it, but when I do spiritual healing and the client is receptive, I see real miracles - people healed instantaneously when all I did was put my hands on them, no real physical manipulation, and pray. I would love to do this full time, but a lot of people tell me I can't make a living that way, that people expect that to be done "out of love." I do it out of love, but I can't survive on this planet without THEIR love offerings, and if they understood what a love offering was, they wouldn't need me. I'm in a bind because if they think love offering = free, and their ego says, "You get what you pay for," they won't respect me or the healing and their ego will block it. But if I charge, the ego says, "She can't be for real, she's just doing it for the money," and then they don't trust me and the ego blocks it that way. I really want to do this full time, I love seeing the miracles and helping people feel that joy and feeling the presence of the Beloved myself, but I need help. I am looking for sponsors so I can be free to work on all people as they need it and not have to get into this issue. Jesus had Mary Magdalene, who he had healed, to support him - all my former clients are poor.
What I am trying to say is, there is an option for real healing that is being overlooked, and even, because of this problem, suppressed. Most healers go underground, like I did as a massage therapist, but I found my healing ability slowly fading because the demands of survival began to take precedence. My spa clients wouldn't allow me to do real healing if it involved talking to clients about the core issue, which always has to do with our relationship to the Beloved, under all the levels of disguise that the ego builds up. My ability has come back since I stopped doing massage for a living and is even stronger, but it's really hard to maintain the joy that opens me up to the Divine flow of love, when I can't pay my bills without going further into debt. But I am here to help, and I'm not ever giving up...
By RayofLight7  Feb 19, 2009
My daughter is in stage 4 reinal faliure. I was wondering if there are any CAM practices that might help her.
By roddster50  Feb 19, 2009
I use massage for anxiety and endometriosis and it has helped more than anything else. I'm also considering accupuncture which I didn't see on your list. Drugs usually help one problem only to cause another. Like my protonix I use for acid reflux now causes some malabsorbtion issues. While meds can be necessary I have lost a lot of faith in them and have started looking towards more natural methods. I'm still careful with supplements though too. Oh and I'm 30... lot younger than the average group I guess :)
By Dansdoll  Feb 18, 2009
From the 10 most used CAM--all but #s 4 & 6...Why? all but #6... Who? I am a 57 yr old female, living in California. I quit smoking cigarettes 8 yrs ago..Out of the 10 most common used 4,6
By marymargaret  Feb 18, 2009
I am a TN based Licensed Massage therapist, Cranial Sacral practicing therapit and recreational therapist. My clients range in age from mid forties to mid seventies and come from both sexes equally. As a TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor and recent appointee to the States TBI advisory council, I'm going to promote CAM clinics Statewide by County seat.
By tbiKelly  Feb 18, 2009
I used to work in a health food store and I recognised a lot of what was listed here. One of the most common reasons people came in looking for supplements to treat their ailments was that their doctor prescribed a drug and they didn't want to use it because they were afraid of the side effects. They wanted to know if there was a natural alternative to treat their problem with and often there was.
The second most popular reason was that the prescription their doctor wanted them to take was too expensive and they couldn't afford it even WITH insurance.
When you listen to the commercials for pharmaceuticals they have to list possible side effects...if you listen closely to that list you questions (or should start to question) if this is a drug you really want to take. When one of the side effects is 'An increase in asthma related death', is this an asthma medication you want? For me? No.
I think insurance companies should be more open to alternative treatments since they can be more effective, at lower cost than prescriptions.
One thing I also noticed was not on the list was Reiki. It works on the same basis as accupuncture but without the needles. I have a friend who's a reiki therapist and I've seen some remarkable results.
Even pet owners are interested in alternative treatments for their animal companions.
There are always some things that only respond to prescription medications. But there are other things that can be treated alternatively with effectiveness.
Of course the big drug companies don't want that (because it'll cut into their profits) so they're against anything other than their overpriced chemicals (a lot of times the drugs you pay up to a hundred dollars or more for cost pennies or a few dollars to make).
It's all about money in the medical field now. No wonder alternatives are so popular!
By ALC67  Feb 18, 2009
If my insurance paid for some of these treatments and supplements the quality of my life would be so much better. People would take less prescription and over-the-counter medication and go to the doctors far less if this government would just open their eyes....gee wonder why we are in this crisis.
By gi10  Feb 18, 2009
As a hypnotherapist I am surprised that was not on the list. Many hospitals incorporate this therapy in their integrative medical practices, using it with patients for stress/anxiety and chronic pain.
It is not just for weight loss, smoking and breaking other bad habits. As a short term process, it has durable results with well motivated clients and should be considered when looking into alternative modalities.
By leejcaroll  Feb 18, 2009
When I lived in Indiana I was honored to have been treated by an integrative allopathic Dr. She was knowledgeable about medicine and just as informed in alternative therapies. With her, I got better. I have hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. She tested me every three months for hormone and thryroid levels and prescribed bio identical hormones and thryroid pills were compounded.
Now that I have moved to Louisiana I found only one dr. listed under integrative. So, she is my dr.
I'll not go to anyother kind of dr. if I can help it because medicine is holistic.
By artseyone  Feb 18, 2009
Eating naturally with organic fruits & vegetables, 70 % Alkaline foods & 30% Acidic foods, plenty of water, good quality supplements, any techniques that reduce stress, oxygen/good breathing techniques, & sleeping well are what is necessary to maintain good health, but difficult to achieve in our society. More & more people of all ages are willing to improve their lifestyle to treat or avoid disease. Surgery and drugs, both of which have negative side affects, are just not acceptable alternatives anymore. Western medicine, with all it's "specialists" do not look at a persons health & wellness in an integrated way, the way that Eastern medicine does. They also do not consider a persons nutritional habits, stress level, & lifestyle choices (smoking, no exercise, junk food, etc.) They seem to treat symptoms and not the source of the dis"ease". The less insurance covers, the less profitable for doctors and hospitals illness becomes, the more that Western Doctors are going to get on the preventative bandwagon. Just listen to Kaiser Permanente's commercials the last couple of years. I think it is a trend headed in the right direction. Better Health at a Lower that's a stress reducer!
By 2Young2BeOld  Feb 18, 2009
Dr. O-
As a long term multiple myeloma survivor with medical issues ranging from side effects (chemobrain, heart damage, chronic deep vein thrombosis, nerve damage) I have learned to manage my health through complementary therapies. Everything from exercise, massage, sauna, supplementation-

I believe that these complementary therapies have helped me with my 15 years survivorship, the last 10 years in complete remission.

David Emerson
By beatingmyeloma  Feb 18, 2009
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