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Chiropractic Research Review

Alternative Health Care Use by Individuals with Disabilities

The use of alternative health care is growing among the general population. But, as this study found, physically disabled individuals (especially those with relatively higher income and education, regardless of their age, gender or racial identity) are more likely to use alternative therapies and see providers than are people without disabilities.

A physical disability is defined in this study as "a limitation in usual and appropriate life activities because of a chronic health condition or impairment."

This convenience sample, national telephone survey sought "to discover and document the extent to which and the pattern with which individuals with physically disabling conditions use alternative health treatments" and to compare the use by this group with that of the general population as studied by Eisenberg in 1993*. The results showed that 57.1% of the disabled used alternative therapies, compared with 34% of the general population. The use of alternative health care providers was 22% vs. 10%. The chart on this page shows a sample of the conditions for which the disabled turn to alternative therapies.

Of the respondents, 27% sought chiropractic care in the preceding 12 months; 22.9% reported having back pain as the principal medical condition.

The authors hypothesized that the main reasons for these disparities appeared to be (1) because of greater dissatisfaction with conventional health care and (2) because, by definition, those with chronic health problems have a higher proportion of complaints they believed alternative providers could alleviate.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark


* Eisenberg DM, et al. Unconventional medicine in the United States: prevalence, cost, and patterns of use. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1993;328; pp246-252. Krauss HH, Godfrey C, Kirk J, Eisenberg DM. Alternative health care: Its use by individuals with disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Nov. 1998;79(11), pp1440-47.

Chiropractic Research Review

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