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23-07-2012 | General practice | Article

Middle-aged female back pain sufferers commonly use CAM


Free abstract

MedWire News: Middle-aged women with back pain are commonly using both conventional and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), Australian study findings show.

"The results reinforce the need for effective and ongoing communication between patients, conventional and CAM practitioners to ensure the creation and maintenance of treatment plans for back pain sufferers," say Emma Kirby (University of Queensland) and colleagues.

They found that the most commonly used CAM was massage therapy, followed by chiropractic therapy.

CAM was rarely used exclusively, however, with most women consulting CAM practitioners alongside a mainstream care provider.

"As a conventional practitioner was almost always consulted by these back pain sufferers, any concerns regarding risk and CAM may be overstated, providing there is communication between patient and GP [General Practitioner] about CAM use," the researchers highlight in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The researchers carried out a cross-sectional survey of 10,492 women aged 40‑45 years. Of these, 8043 (77%) had experienced back pain in the previous 12 months: 19.5% experienced back pain often, 35.6% experienced back pain sometimes, and 21.6% experienced it rarely.

In all, 42.4% of women with back pain consulted with at least one CAM practitioner, and these women were more likely to consult with a CAM practitioner than women without back pain (31.1%).

The findings also showed that the likelihood of consulting with a CAM practitioner increased with frequency of back pain.

Kirby et al note that just over half (51.3%) of women with back pain consulted only with a conventional care provider, while 44.2% consulted with both a conventional care provider and a CAM practitioner. Only 1.7% of women with back pain consulted with a CAM practitioner alone.

The likelihood to consult with both a conventional care provider and a CAM practitioner increased with frequency of back pain.

"The women in our study did not forgo their conventional care providers, but did concurrently use CAM practitioners," the researchers comment.

"It is important that health professionals are aware of potential multiple practitioner usage in their context of back pain and are prepared to discuss such behaviors and practices with their patients."

By Lucy Piper

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