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Chiropractic Research Review

Still on the Rise: Trends in Chiropractic, CAM Use Over Last 50 Years

Recent community surveys have demonstrated that people in the U.S. are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with increasing frequency. Many medical schools offer CAM courses, and more managed care providers insure these therapies than in the past.

A rise in the utilization of CAM therapies in the 1970s was largely attributed to the changing youth counterculture, but little research has assessed current and long-term trends in CAM use.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark


This report evaluated CAM use over the last 50 years, with data obtained from a random national sample of 2,055 respondents. Twenty forms of therapy were considered, including chiropractic; acupuncture; massage; herbal medicine; naturopathy; and yoga. Subjects were divided into three groups: pre-baby boomers (54 years or older), baby boomers (34 to 53 years), and post-baby boomers (18 to 33 years).

Results: Subjects reported using alternative therapies at least once in 67.6% of cases. Other CAM user trends are listed below:

* Overall use of CAM therapies continually increased since 1950.

* Younger subjects were more likely to use alternative care. By age, 30% of pre-baby boomers, 50% of baby boomers, and 70% of post-baby boomers utilized CAM.

* Post-baby boomers received CAM care earlier in life than baby boomers or pre-baby boomers.

* Most CAM users continued to seek such care: after 21 years or longer, 46% still used their chosen treatment.

* Chiropractic care was the most popular CAM therapy over the past half-century, and is currently the most utilized of the 20 therapies reviewed.

This trend of increased CAM use suggests a continuing demand that may affect all aspects of health care in the future. The authors write that physician evaluations of the effectiveness of different CAM therapies may help minimize possible negative consequences of these treatments.

Kessler RC, Davis RB, Foster DF, et al. Long-term trends in the use of complementary and alternative medical therapies in the United States. Annals of Internal Medicine, August 21, 2001:135(4), pp. 262-268.

Chiropractic Research Review

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