Thursday, July 8, 2010

CAM Popular for Back Pain Relief, Survey

CAMA newly reported survey notes that 6 out of 10 persons treated with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies for back pain claim beneficial effects. Chiropractic care was rated first, followed by massage, yoga/tai chi/qi gong, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and relaxation techniques.

Overall, the report authors note that back pain affects 15% to 30% of the United States population and 6% of all Americans (5.4 million adults) use CAM to treat the condition. The study examined 17 CAM therapies, ranging from hypnosis to homeopathic remedies to special diets and more. Among the 1,647 back pain sufferers who used CAM in the previous 12 months, chiropractic care was the most frequently used choice at 74%, followed by massage therapy at 22%, and at less than 10% each were acupuncture, yoga/tai chi/qi gong (considered together), herbal remedies, and relaxation techniques. About 30% used more than one of those 6 most-popular CAM therapies, while any other approaches were only rarely used.

LIMITATIONS: Data for the study were from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 2002, so trends may have changed during the past 8 years. Respondents who claimed the most benefit from CAM tended to rate their overall health as better than those who had less beneficial effects. However, there was a preponderance of acute back pain sufferers in the study population; whereas, persons with more chronic back conditions might have poorer health and benefit less from any therapy.

Interestingly, less than a quarter (24%) of respondents stated that their healthcare providers had suggested the use of CAM for back pain. The authors observe that, it may have been more common for medical practitioners to first treat patients with conventional medicine; referring patients to CAM providers only if their back pain was unresponsive (and thereby less likely to improve with CAM as well). Today, the early recommendation of massage and acupuncture, in particular, may have increased in prominence with greater knowledge of these modalities by healthcare providers, broader insurance coverage, and increasing numbers of massage and acupuncture therapists. Also, in many cases, chiropractors have integrated these modalities into their practices.

REFERENCE: Kanodia AK, Legedza ATR, Davis RB, et al. Perceived Benefit of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Back Pain: A National Survey. J Am Board Fam Med. 2010;23:354-362 [article PDF available here].