Supplemental alternative therapy, especially to relieve pain, has become increasingly more widespread in the last 15 years. Even so, the integration of acupuncture and chiropractic care with conventional practice remains practically inexistent.
Indeed, many specialists are convinced that better integration could potentially improve coordination of care and overall outcomes. A study conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Centre for Health Research in Portland, Oregon provides insight into the current state of alternative therapy in managed health care systems.
Findings published in The American Journal of Managed Care demonstrate that a substantial percentage of patients suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain seek alternative therapy in complement to the treatments prescribed by their clinicians.
Of the patients invited to participate in the study, the 6,068 patients suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain became the focus. With a mean age of 61, the participants were predominantly Caucasian (94 per cent) and female (71 per cent). All had been treated at the Kaiser Permanente Centre between 2009 and 2011, with several outpatient consultations for chronic pain within the last 18 months. The survey included questions on their use of acupuncture and chiropractic care, as well as other therapies such as yoga, tai chi/qigong, massage and meditation.
Among the participant responses, 32 per cent reported the use of acupuncture, 47 per cent reported the use of chiropractic care, and 21 per cent reported using both while 42 per cent stated that they used neither. In addition, 35 per cent of acupuncture users and 42 per cent of chiropractic users said they had not discussed their use of alternative therapy with their clinician.
“This finding serves to emphasise the importance of clinicians raising this topic in routine encounters with chronic pain patients,” conclude the authors of the study. “Engaging the patient in a discussion about acupuncture and chiropractic use can provide information for optimising care. Such discussions can reinforce a patient’s self-management efforts and potentially provide insight into the types of patients who may be, or should be, using acupuncture and/or chiropractic services. Clinicians should also consider direct communication with acupuncturists and chiropractors about patients they are co-managing. This may allow better coordination of care and potentially improve outcomes.”