Complementary and alternative medicine use by primary care patients with chronic pain

Pain Med. 2008 Nov;9(8):1065-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2008.00477.x. Epub 2008 Jun 18.


Objectives: To describe the characteristics and attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among primary care patients with chronic pain disorders and to determine if CAM use is associated with better pain control.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Subjects: Four hundred sixty-three patients suffering from chronic, nonmalignant pain receiving primary care at 12 U.S. academic medical centers.

Outcome measure: Self-reported current CAM usage by patients with chronic pain disorders.

Results: The survey had an 81% response rate. Fifty-two percent reported current use of CAM for relief of chronic pain. Of the patients that used CAM, 54% agreed that nontraditional remedies helped their pain and 14% indicated that their individual alternative remedy entirely relieved their pain. Vitamin and mineral supplements were the most frequently used CAM modalities. There was no association between reported use of CAM and pain severity, functional status, or perceived self-efficacy. Patients who reported having at least a high school education (odds ratio [OR] 1.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02-1.19, P = 0.016) and high levels of satisfaction with their health care (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.13-1.91, P = 0.004) were significantly more likely to report using CAM.

Conclusions: Complementary and alternative therapies were popular among patients with chronic pain disorders surveyed in academic primary care settings. When asked to choose between traditional therapies or CAM, most patients still preferred traditional therapies for pain relief. We found no association between reported CAM usage and pain severity, functional status, or self-efficacy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States