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Unproven but searchable: Increased traffic for alternative therapies

Those residing in Georgia are using alternative medicines and therapies the least.

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US drug overdose deaths surged to more than 100,000 this year for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic, exacerbated by a flood of fake online pills - Copyright AFP/File Patrick T. FALLON
US drug overdose deaths surged to more than 100,000 this year for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic, exacerbated by a flood of fake online pills - Copyright AFP/File Patrick T. FALLON

Alternative therapies are lucrative business, irrespective of their effectiveness. A sign of this is with the growth in Internet searches for such remedies.

New research has revealed the top ten most popular forms of alternative medicines and therapies used across the U.S. In all, 31 million searches made between May 2021 – April 2022. These data suggest the therapies that are most heavily favoured by U.S. citizens.

Health experts at NiceRx have carried out research to reveal the most popular forms of alternative medicines and therapies, as well as the states using these forms the most and least.

The top ten most popular forms of alternative medicines and therapies are:

RankAlternative Medicines and TherapiesNumber of Google Searches (USA)
1Chiropractic9,400,000
2Acupuncture3,884,000
3Gua sha3,352,000
4Fasting3,239,000
5Chakra3,017,000
6Reflexology2,045,000
7Reiki1,950,000
8Feng Shui1,650,000
9Massage therapy1,630,000
10Thai massage1,591,000

The research revealed that across the U.S. chiropractic takes top spot with over 9 million searches between May 2021 – April 2022. This is notwithstanding there being little evidence that this therapy can help people with more serious conditions or problems not affecting the muscles or joints, such as asthma, allergies and mental health problems. Because of the uncertainty over the effectiveness of the approach for muscles and joints, chiropractic is not widely available from many state supported healthcare systems.

Second on the list is acupuncture, which is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes. In third place is gua sha, which is an alternative therapy that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve your circulation. It can lead to bruising or discoloration and the evidence for its effectiveness is limited.

Within the data sets there are some interesting patterns. For example, people living in Hawaii are using alternative medicines and therapies the most. Between May 2021 – April 2022 there were 1,925 searches carried out per 10,000 people, which is more than any other state.

In contrast, those residing in Georgia are using alternative medicines and therapies the least, if Internet search data is reflective of usage rates. Between the same time period, people in Georgia carried out 103 searches per 100,000 people, which is over 1,800 less than Hawaii.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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