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Chiropractic Research Review

Who Seeks CAM, and Why?

In 1997, there were 1.6 times more visits to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers than to primary care physicians, totaling an estimated 629 million visits. Full insurance coverage, health/wellness promotion, and disease prevention have been linked to chiropractic care.

Do these trends apply to all other CAM providers?

The authors of this study conducted a telephone survey of 2,055 American adults. This nationally representative sample was asked questions about health status, condition needing treatment, and use of CAM therapies within the previous year. Fifteen "core" therapies, including chiropractic; massage; acupuncture; and homeopathy, as well as additional less-easily defined therapies were considered. Eight or more visits per year were considered "frequent" therapy.

Forty-four percent of the respondents had used some form of CAM in the previous year. Factors associated with using CAM providers were a high annual number of visits to a conventional medicine provider; female gender; and having diabetes, cancer, or back/neck problems. Aspects associated with frequent use were full insurance coverage, followed by partial coverage, therapy for wellness, and back and neck problems. For manipulative providers (chiropractors and massage therapists), insurance coverage was a stronger predictor of visits than for other CAM therapies.

The authors estimate that their survey shows that 8.9% of Americans accounted for more than 75% of visits to CAM providers in 1997. This pattern of a small number of patients accounting for the bulk
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of visits is consistent with patient use of conventional medicine.

Wolsko PM, Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, et al. Insurance coverage, medical conditions, and visits to alternative medicine providers: Results of a national survey. Archives of Internal Medicine 2002:162(3), pp. 281-287.

Chiropractic Research Review

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