As part of a trend that even very recently would have been unthinkable, increasingly many doctors are suggesting complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies to their patients.
Although traditionally skeptical of CAM, doctors are now more willing to prescribe meditation, massage and acupuncture for the relief of a range of health problems, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In fact, practitioners such as Dr Ali Keshavarzian increasingly straddle both worlds as they realize that conventional medicine does not always have all the answers.
"CAM is looking at a patient as a human being, rather than a disease," said Keshavarzian, a gastroenterologist at Rush University Medical Center, as quoted by the newspaper. Although still a believer in "Western" medicine, he suggests relaxation techniques when he suspects that stress may be a factor or acupuncture for pain.
In an interesting development, medical schools have started teaching integrative practices. The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, a group that includes Duke University, Harvard and Northwestern, has grown from eight to 43 members since 1999.
This trend reflects the fact that alternative medicine is increasingly popular among ordinary Americans.
According to a joint survey by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, 40 percent of adults and 10 percent of children sought alternative medicine help for a range of health problems – such as chronic back pain – in 2007.