Billions Spent on Alternative Therapies
From massage therapy, yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, to homeopathy, naturopathy, guided imagery, and energy healing, Americans spend about 30 billion dollars a year on alternative and complementary medicine. According to researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics, 59 million people spent an average of $500 per person on these treatments in 2012. This amount is comparable to yearly out-of-pocket expenses for conventional medical treatment—doctor visits, medical tests, and prescription drugs.
Support for alternative and complementary treatments has increased significantly in recent years and the NIH established a separate institute—the National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health—to study and evaluate them. While some alternative therapies have proven useful—for example, tai chi can be as effective as physical therapy to relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis—others have little or no scientific support.
Ongoing research is important, especially as more and more people put their faith—and their money—in alternative treatments.
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