Objective: To examine the rates of use and expenditures on alternative therapies by adults with osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Adults with OA recruited from the community to participate in a randomized clinical trial recorded alternative and traditional health care use on postcard diaries. General and arthritis-specific quality of life was assessed by questionnaires.
Results: More than 47% of participants reported using at least one type of alternative care during the 20-week intervention period. Among alternative care consumers, the most commonly used treatments were massage therapy (57%), chiropractic services (20.7%), and nonprescribed alternative medications (17.2%). Four percent of subjects reported using only alternative care during the study period. Expenditures for alternative therapy averaged $1,127 per year, compared with $1,148 for traditional therapies.
Conclusion: Use of and expenditures for alternative care were high among this cohort of older adults with OA. Clinicians may want to inquire about use of these therapies before recommending treatments for this condition.