Use of alternative therapies by rehabilitation outpatients

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1998 Aug;79(8):1003-5. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(98)90102-2.


Objective: To document the prevalence and patterns of use of alternative medical therapies as well as their perceived effectiveness by patients in a rehabilitation medicine outpatient practice.

Design: Cross-sectional survey by written questionnaire.

Setting: An urban rehabilitation medicine outpatient referral office.

Patients: A random sample of 103 patients referred for rehabilitation outpatient care, while waiting for their appointment, were given a questionnaire addressing their use of alternative therapies.

Main outcome measures: Use of alternative therapies and their perceived effectiveness.

Results: One or more alternative medical therapies had been used by 29.1% of subjects in the past 12 months for their presenting problem. The most common therapies were massage, chiropractic, vitamin and mineral supplementation, and acupuncture. Musculoskeletal pain syndromes involving the spine and extremities were the most common problems for which patients sought both physiatric and alternative care. Of the patients who used alternative treatments 53% reported some degree of efficacy.

Conclusions: A significant proportion of rehabilitation medicine patients use and frequently perceive a benefit from alternative therapies, particularly massage, chiropractic, vitamin and mineral supplementation, and acupuncture. Incorporating alternative therapies into physiatric practice is a desirable future direction for the specialty.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Rehabilitation / methods
  • Rehabilitation / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires