Most patients with chronic pain use complementary and alternative therapies, but many keep it a secret from clinicians, suggests US research.
More than half of chronic pain patients in a managed care setting reported using chiropractic care or acupuncture or both.
“We need to ask them about the alternative and complementary approaches they are using”
However, many of these patients did not discuss this care with their primary care providers, according to study results published in the American Journal of Managed Care.
Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 patients in the states of Oregon and Washington who had three or more outpatient visits for chronic pain within 18 months.
They found that 58% of these patients had used chiropractic care or acupuncture or both.
The majority shared information about CAM therapies with their primary care provider, but 35% of patients who had acupuncture only and 42% who had chiropractic care did not talk to their providers about this care.
Lead study author Dr Charles Elder, from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, said the study confirmed that most patients with chronic pain were seeking complementary treatments to “supplement” their normal care.
“The problem is that too often, doctors don’t ask about this treatment, and patients don’t volunteer the information,” he said.
He added: “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.”
The majority, 71%, of the patients were women, and the mean age was 61. Common complaints included back pain, joint pain, arthritis, extremity, neck and muscle pain, and headache.
Patients completed the survey online or by mail. It included 17 questions about the type of pain patients experienced, and their use of acupuncture, chiropractic care, and other alternative and complementary therapies.
The survey was administered as part of a study called RELIEF, which is comparing outcomes among chronic pain patients who receive chiropractic care and acupuncture, and those who do not.