Complementary and alternative medicine use among primary care patients in west Texas

South Med J. 2008 Dec;101(12):1232-7. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3181840bc5.


Background: This study explored factors related to practitioner-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) usage among primary care clinic patients in rural West Texas areas, including physicians' awareness of their patients' CAM use.

Methods: A convenience sample was drawn from nine clinics that served low-income populations. Surveys were distributed to patients during a 6-week period in the winter of 2006. The analytical sample included 1731 participants. Logistic regressions were conducted to explore the factors related to CAM use.

Results: Of 1731 subjects, 52.0% (900) reported that they were currently using or had used CAM. The main types of CAM practitioners were chiropractor (42.7%) followed by massage therapist (33.3%) and herbalist (8.3%). Those who had discussed the use of alternative medicine with their physicians and those who had more days where they felt worried in the past 30 days were more likely to use CAM than their counterparts. Patients whose healthcare was covered by nonprivate insurance, those who rated their healthcare providers more highly, and those who agreed that their doctor visits were obtainable were less likely to use CAM.

Conclusions: CAM use is clearly not uncommon among primary care patients in rural areas, with more than half of patients reporting some type of use. This study suggests that further research should elicit opinions on CAM among people who do not regularly access a conventional primary care provider, as well as assess the relationship between CAM and conventional medical treatment in terms of cost and health benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Texas
  • Utilization Review