Do You Fit the Mold Of a CAM User?

Who Is a Typical CAM user? Do You Fit the Mold?

Massage Therapy and Asthma
Massage Therapy and Asthma. Getty Images Mark Mainz

Despite what you might think, many people turning to CAM for their asthma are actually very satisfied with their care.

While some people may turn to CAM when they feel like their asthma control is poor and they have no other options, others may use CAM when they are well and trying to prevent an exacerbation or decrease the need or amount of regular medication to keep asthma under control. For this latter group, CAM is all about trying to prevent exacerbation and living a healthier lifestyle.

Just as traditional medical care for asthma may be given from a primary care physician or a specialist, CAM can be divided into several different areas:

  • Natural Products. These are often dietary supplements such as herbs, vitamins, and minerals. In asthma, many people supplement with antioxidants, Vitamin D, fish oils or Ginkgo.
  • Manipulative Practices. Acupuncture and massage therapy focus on various body systems and structures. Generally, these treatments are administered by a practitioner.
  • Mind Body Practices. Yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and meditation are thought to produce your body’s natural relaxation response to decree asthma symptoms.
  • Energy Therapy. Tai chi and qi gong combine movements and postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus to restore your body’s natural energy.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine. Originating in China, traditional Chinese medicine utilizes herbal medicine as well as mind-body practices to both treat and prevent health problems.

People may use these methodologies alone or in combination to improve asthma. However, none of these therapies are likely to be sufficient to solely treat your asthma. While they may lessen the need for medication needed or decrease symptoms, they should not be used as your only treatment for asthma or as treatment of an asthma exacerbation. You should always seek your doctor’s opinion and advice before utilizing a CAM asthma therapy.

Who Uses CAM?

Today the typical sociodemographic picture of a person utilizing CAM is:

  • Female
  • Well educated
  • Trying to address well-being as well as a specific medical condition

Further, patients utilizing CAM will often have shared beliefs that may include:

  • A more holistic approach to health, disease, and treatment compared to others
  • A greater desire to take an active role in their own treatment compared to others
  • More inclined to develop a therapeutic alliance with a caring healthcare provider
  • Belief that natural therapies have fewer side effects compared to modern medicine
  • More openness to experience different treatments
  • Prior experience with a poor doctor-patient relationship
  • Modern medicine more likely to lead to adverse events
  • Modern, conventional treatment is less likely to be of benefit

Why Are Patients Turning To CAM?

Many patients turn to CAM because they believe it increases their healthcare options for the treatment of asthma rather than having negative beliefs about modern medicine. In one study parents believed CAM offered more potential options than just relying on medications alone. Of concern to me as a provider, many of the parents failed to discuss the CAM treatments with their provider, opening the potential for serious interactions between CAM therapy and medication prescribed by a doctor.

While traditional medicine may have a heavy influence on whether you try CAM or not, it has significantly less impact on a person’s continued use of CAM. Most patients continue to use CAM because they see an effect and many will continue despite minor discomforts with the experience. Additionally, patients who report the previously mentioned shared beliefs are more likely to continue CAM use as well as having a friend or knowing someone with a positive CAM experience.

Patients who have a positive association with holistic health (e.g. agreeing with the statement ‘treatments should focus on people’s overall well-being’) are more likely to use all of the CAM practices. Additionally, patients believing that emotions were a potential cause of illness, their illness had serious consequences, and a strong understanding of their disease were more likely to currently be using CAM. Interestingly, certain beliefs have been associated with specific CAM usages such as believing your illness has serious consequences being associated more with mind-body interventions and use of natural products.

We want to help you get control of your asthma. I want to hear about your biggest asthma problem so that we can try to help you develop a solution or better understand how to help.

You are probably not the only one with the problem. Take a few minutes describing your problemso we can develop a solution together.

* Bishop FL, Yardley L, Lewith GT. Why consumers maintain complementary and alternative medicine use: a qualitative study. J Altern Med. 2010 Feb;16(2):175–82.
* Bishop FL, Yardley L, Lewith G. Developing a measure of treatment beliefs: The complementary and alternative medicine beliefs inventory. Complement Ther Med 2005;13:144–149.
* Bishop FL, Yardley L, Lewith GT.Why do people use different forms of complementary medicine? Multivariate associations between treatment and illness beliefs and complementary medicine use. Psychology and Health 2006; 21(5): 683–698.
* Richardson J. What patients expect from complementary therapy: A qualitative study. Am J Public Health 2004;94: 1049–1053.
* O’Keefe M, Coat S. Increasing health-care options: the perspectives of parents who use complementary and alternative medicines. J Paediatr Child Health 2010; 46:296–300.

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