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Alternative Medicine a Plus for Brain Injuries

Many with head traumas try complementary therapies, but don't tell doctors

WEDNESDAY, April 2, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies are being used by many people with traumatic brain injuries to supplement their conventional medical care.

But the bad news is the majority of these patients are not discussing that with their doctors, says a University of Michigan Health System study.

The findings were presented April 1 at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Honolulu.

Researchers interviewed 130 people with traumatic brain injury treated at the university's Trauma Burn Center. They were asked if they'd used alternative therapies to help them with their injuries.

More than half of them said they'd used at least one alternative therapy; more than a third said they'd used at least two therapies.

The most commonly used therapies used by the people interviewed were massage therapy, meditation, herbal medicine and chiropractic care. Massage therapy and chiropractic care were used by the brain injury patients to treat their pain, while meditation was used for affective disorders and herbal medicines for cognitive defects.

The study found 80 percent of the people interviewed believed such therapy was effective, despite the fact that there has been little medical assessment of its efficacy and safety in treating traumatic brain injuries. And most did not inform their doctors about those treatments.

"A lot of patients are embarrassed to tell their doctors, while others don't even realize that the vitamin supplements and other substances they are using can be as active as drugs, which can affect their medical treatment. As a physician, this makes me more aware of the fact that I need to ask my patients about any possible CAM use," study author Dr. Sharon McDowell says in a news release.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about traumatic brain injuries.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, April 1, 2003
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