Many Chronic Pain Patients Use Alternative Therapies—But Don’t Tell their Doctors

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End chronic painIn a new study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, researchers found that 58% of chronic pain patients in a managed care setting reported using alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or chiropractic treatment; however, many did so without discussing the option with their primary care provider.

The study focused on 6,068 chronic pain patients surveyed in Washington and Oregon who were members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan between 2009 and 2011. They also had three or more doctor visits regarding chronic pain within an 18-month timeframe.

Researchers discovered that 32% of the patients used acupuncture, 47% reported using chiropractic care, 21% used both, and 42% did not use either alternative practice. Approximately 42% didn’t inform their healthcare providers of receiving chiropractic care, and 35% didn’t report receiving acupuncture care. Nearly all of the patients reported using alternative therapy if it was requested from their healthcare providers.

As a result, the study suggests that better communication among doctors and patients is needed.

The study’s lead author, Charles Elder, commented on the findings, stating, “Our study confirms that most of our patients with chronic pain are seeking complementary treatments to supplement the care we provide in the primary care setting. The problem is that too often, doctors don’t ask about this treatment, and patients don’t volunteer the information.”

The Institute of Medicine reports that about 100 million Americans every year spend approximately $600 billion on chronic pain. In the study, 66% of acupuncture patients received the services through a health plan with a self-referral or clinical referral benefit. Approximately 45% of chiropractic patients used a health plan. The other patients either used a combination of a health plan and outside sources for alternative care, or they didn’t use a health plan at all.

Common chronic pain complaints included in the study were headaches, arthritis, joint pain, back pain, and neck pain.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Most chronic pain patients use alternative therapies, but many don’t tell their doctors,” Science Daily web site, July 20, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150720110417.htm.
Elder, C., et al., “Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care: Utilization and Electronic Medical Record Capture,” American Journal of Managed Care, July 20, 2015; http://www.ajmc.com/journals/issue/2015/2015-vol21-n7/acupuncture-and-chiropractic-care-utilization-and-electronic-medical-record-capture.




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Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »