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Chiropractic Research Review

Arthritis Patients Utilize Alternative Care

Americans made an estimated 629 million visits to practitioners of alternative medicine in 1997, far exceeding the 388 million visits made to primary care physicians that same year. Patients with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and/or fibromyalgia may derive particular benefit from complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), a variable that researchers sought to quantify in this study.

CAM was defined as "...any intervention not usually prescribed by physicians..." and included chiropractic manipulation, herbal remedies, high-dose vitamins and elimination diets.

The authors gave questionnaires to 232 patients with scheduled appointments at a university or private rheumatology practice. Patients answered questions on CAM use, functional status, pain, provider satisfaction, and overall health services utilization.

Results are presented as follows:

* 146 respondents (two-thirds of the study population) reported using CAM; 82 currently used CAM and 132 regularly used CAM or had done so in the past.

* Chiropractic care was the most frequently sought intervention by patients who had ever used CAM; it was also the type of care patients felt was the most helpful of all the types of nonmedical care surveyed.

* Fifty-five respondents had used three or more types of CAM.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark


*CAM users were more likely to have osteoarthritis and/or severe pain than patients who reported no previous CAM use.

It is interesting to note that only about half of the respondents had discussed CAM use with their primary care physician, although fear of disapproval was rarely cited as a rationale. Patients said they did not report CAM use to their primary care physician because the physician did not ask or they just forgot to mention it!

Conclusion: Patients with arthritis and other rheumatologic conditions frequently use CAM. Future research endeavors suggested by the authors include research in other practice venues (such as primary care clinics) and investigations into the efficacy of CAM treatments.

Rao JK, Mihaliak K, Kroenke K, et al. Use of complementary therapies for arthritis among patients of rheumatologists. Annals of Internal Medicine, September 1999:131(6), pp409-416.

Chiropractic Research Review

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