Perceived benefit of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for back pain: a national survey

J Am Board Fam Med. 2010 May-Jun;23(3):354-62. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2010.03.080252.


Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is commonly used to treat back pain, but little is known about factors associated with improvement.

Methods: We used data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey to examine the associations between the perceived helpfulness of various CAM therapies for back pain.

Results: Approximately 6% of the US population used CAM to treat their back pain in 2002. Sixty percent of respondents who used CAM for back pain perceived a "great deal" of benefit. Using multivariable logistic regression, the factor associated with perceived benefit from CAM modalities was reporting that a reason for using CAM was that "conventional medical treatment would not help" (odds ratio [OR], 1.46; 95% CI, 1.14-1.86). The 2 factors associated with less perceived benefit from CAM modalities were fair to poor self-reported health status (OR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.41-0.82) and referral by a conventional medical practitioner for CAM (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.54-0.92). Using chiropractic as a reference, massage (OR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.83), relaxation techniques (OR, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.14-0.45), and herbal therapy (OR, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.19-0.46) were all associated with less perceived benefit whereas those with similar perceived benefit included yoga/tai chi/qi gong (OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.41-1.22) and acupuncture (OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.37-1.38).

Conclusions: The majority of respondents who used CAM for back pain perceived benefit. Specific factors and therapies associated with perceived benefit warrant further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Back Pain / drug therapy
  • Back Pain / therapy*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Chiropractic
  • Massage
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Phytotherapy
  • Primary Health Care
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Perception*
  • Tai Ji
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Yoga