Docs prescribe yoga as last resort

Doctors are referring more of their patients for yoga and mind-body therapies, particularly as "last resorts" for the sickest patients whose health has not improved with conventional healthcare treatments, concludes a study published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

More than 6.3 million Americans--or 3 percent--use mind-body therapies based on doctor recommendations. These patients tend to use the healthcare system more than people who sought the therapies themselves without doctor's orders, according to the Harvard study.

Doctors are turning to yoga and meditation to reduce patients' stress levels, which in turn has been shown to help ease chronic pain, notes the Boston Globe.

Perhaps these doctors are on to something, as stress is a major underlying cause of most modifiable diseases, including cardiac, obesity and diabetes, Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Health and Wellness Innovation at Aetna, told FierceHealthPayer not too long ago.

And with 87 percent of physicians reporting an increase in patients with stress symptoms in the past year, prescribing downward dogs could very well help hospitals rein in medical costs.

"It makes us wonder whether referring patients for these therapies earlier in the treatment process could lead to less use of the healthcare system, and possibly, better outcomes for these patients," lead researcher Dr. Aditi Nerurkar said in a statement.

For more:
- read the Boston Globe article
- read the Independent article
- here's a sample of the study