What Don’t You Tell Your Doctor?

Research reveals that many people receiving alternative treatments aren’t telling their doctors about it

What Don't You Tell Your Doctor?

Do you keep things from your doctor? Apparently, many people do. A new study reported in the New York Times suggests that many patients who tried acupuncture or chiropractic treatments for chronic pain didn’t tell their doctors about it.

The study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care, polled more than 6,000 patients with chronic pain about alternative treatments they’d perused. While the majority said they’d used acupuncture, chiropractic or both, one third of acupuncture patients and almost a half of chiropractic patients, did not report the treatments to their primary-care physicians.

Chances are you’re not purposely keeping this information from your doctor ‘ you may not even think to bring it up. But talking about natural or alternative remedies with your family doctor can be important for your overall care, especially when it comes to medications and vitamins. ‘Alternative medications can interfere with prescription medications,’ says Dr. Earl Schwartz, a general practitioner (G.P.) in Toronto. ‘Some alternative medications may increase the effect of prescriptions, and some may decrease the effect.’

Schwartz makes a point to discuss alternative treatments with his patients so he can advise them about any potential risks. For example, ‘if a patient has a slipped [vertebra] disc, chiropractic manipulation could aggravate the problem,’ he says. ‘It’s not common, but I’ve seen it happen.’

Schwartz says he generally has no problem with his patients seeing reputable chiropractors or acupuncturists if it’s helpful for them and safe for their condition. But he does admit some doctors may be dismissive or even act insulted when a patient wants to discuss non-medical treatments. If you suspect that will be a problem with your G.P., it might be time to consider switching to a physician who’s more open to your healthcare choices.

‘Generally, if there’s a problem talking to your doctor about alternative treatments, there are going to be other communication problems,’ says Schwartz. ‘To me it’s a reflection of the doctor, not the patient.’