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Why you should tell your doctor about natural therapies

When you visit the doctor, do you tell them about the natural therapies and remedies that you’re trying for treatment?
Many of us don’t, but it’s incredibly important to tell your GP about any complementary treatments you’re receiving.
In fact, a US study published in July found that “many Americans with chronic pain who use alternative therapies – such as acupuncture – don’t discuss these treatments with their doctor.” (quoted in
While we don’t have statistics for Australians, we can assume that there is a similar trend. Especially as there is no national database linking conventional and complementary medicine providers and patients.
The study, led by Dr. Charles Elder at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, surveyed more than 6000 patients in two US states. It found that 58% of hospital patients used acupuncture and/or chiropractic to treat their chronic pain.
Of those who had acupuncture, only 35% informed their doctor. And of those who had chiropractic, only 42% told their doctor.

Why tell your doctor about natural treatments?

Unfortunately, most doctors don’t ask if their patients are taking other remedies or treatments for pain and other ailments. And many of us probably don’t think to share those insights – we are seeing the GP for a specific diagnosis or treatment, not to discuss our overall health care.
But it’s very important to connect the dots and share other treatments with our health care provider. Just as it’s important to tell our natural therapists of any medication we are on.
For starters, some herbal remedies and pharmaceutical medications can affect one another, sparking side effects or negating the other’s affect. So for the sake of your health and safety, your GP and natural therapist should know what else you are taking for your pain or problem.
Secondly, your doctor may not know that a particular treatment or therapy is beneficial for a particular ailment or illness. The more patients who share their success stories with doctors, the more awareness there is around alternative therapies as effective treatments.
As Elder said, “We want our patients to get better, so we need to ask them about the alternative and complementary approaches they are using. If we know what's working and what's not working, we can do a better job advising patients, and we may be able to recommend an approach they haven't tried.”

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