Most Pain Patients Use Alternative Therapy (Video)

By Pat Anson, Editor

A large new study of chronic pain patients found that over half were using chiropractic care or acupuncture for pain relief, but many didn’t discuss their use of alternative therapy with their primary care providers.

Researchers surveyed over 6,000 patients in Oregon and Washington State who were Kaiser Permanente members and had three or more outpatient visits for chronic pain in 18 months.

The study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care, found that 58 percent of the patients had used chiropractic care, acupuncture, or both.

Over a third (35%) of the pain patients who had acupuncture never told their doctor, while 42% who had chiropractic care didn't talk to their providers about it. Almost all of the patients said they would be happy to share this information if their doctor had asked.

"Our study confirms that most of our patients with chronic pain are seeking complementary treatments to supplement the care we provide in the primary care setting," said Charles Elder, MD, lead author of the study and affiliate investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. "The problem is that too often, doctors don't ask about this treatment, and patients don't volunteer the information.

"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,” said Elder, who is the lead physician for Kaiser Permanente's complementary and alternative medicine program.

The majority of the patients in the study (71 percent) were women, and the mean age was 61. Most suffered from back pain, joint pain, arthritis, neck and muscle pain, or headache.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

A video report on the study that was produced by Kaiser Permanente can be seen here: