Alternative medicine therapies in neurological disorders: Prevalence, reasons and associated factors. A systematic review

Complement Ther Med. 2023 May:73:102932. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2023.102932. Epub 2023 Feb 15.


Objective: This systematic review aimed to identify the prevalence of CAM use in patients with neurological disorders, and also to know most frequent types of CAM used.

Methods: Five databases: PubMed, Science Direct, EBSCO, Latindex and Scielo (in English and Spanish) were searched from January 2010 to May 2021. Only original cross-sectional, retrospective and cohort studies were included, whose primary objective was to describe the frequency of CAM use in neurological disorders and/or the related factors to its use in adults. Based on the data, a descriptive analysis was performed, covering the characteristics of studies, measuring methods, prevalence, types and related factors. To control the risk of bias, a quality assessment of each study was performed using STROBE checklist.

Results: For the final analysis, 40 studies were included. Most common pathologies observed in the studies were multiple sclerosis, headache, stroke, Parkinson and epilepsy. The STROBE score of studies ranged from 13 to 22 points, with an average of 18.2. Prevalence of CAM use was highly variable from one study to another (16% in stroke patients, to 100% in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal cord injury patients). Biological therapies (dietary supplements and herbal medicine) were the most commonly CAM types used. The associated factors identified were female sex, an age between 40 and 50 years, and higher socioeconomic level. Not all studies investigated about the results of CAMs but these ranged from 35% to more than 80% of reporting positive effects.

Conclusions: The prevalence of CAM use in neurological diseases is highly variable (16%-100%); the most used type of CAM was biological therapies and the associated factors were female sex, age between 40 and 50 years old and high socioeconomic level.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine; Multiple sclerosis; Neurological disorders; Stroke; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies* / methods
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Nervous System Diseases* / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stroke*