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J R Soc Med. 1999 January; 92(1): 13–16.
PMCID: PMC1297030

Use of complementary therapies by patients attending musculoskeletal clinics.


Patients with musculoskeletal disorders commonly seek treatment outside orthodox medicine (complementary therapy). In patients attending hospital clinics we investigated the prevalence of such behaviour and the reasons for it. Patients attending rheumatology and orthopaedic clinics who agreed to participate were interviewed on the same day by means of a structured questionnaire in three sections: the first section about demographic characteristics; the second about the nature and duration of the complaint, the length of any treatment and whether the patient was satisfied with conventional treatment; and the third about the use of complementary medicine, the types of therapy that had been considered and the reasoning behind these decisions. The data were examined by univariate and bivariate analysis as well as logistic regression multivariate analysis. 166 patients were interviewed (99% response rate) and the predominant diagnosis was rheumatoid arthritis (22.3%). 109 patients (63%) were satisfied with conventional medical treatment; 63 (38%) had considered the use of complementary therapies, and 47 (28%) had tried such a therapy. 26 of the 47 who had used complementary therapy said they had gained some benefit. Acupuncture, homoeopathy, osteopathy and herbal medicine were the most popular types of treatment to be considered. Patients of female gender (P = 0.009) and patients who had expressed dissatisfaction with current therapies (P = 0.01) were most likely to have considered complementary medicine. These results indicate substantial use of complementary therapy in patients attending musculoskeletal disease clinics. The reasons for dissatisfaction with orthodox treatment deserve further investigation, as does the effectiveness of complementary treatments, which must be demonstrated before they are integrated with orthodox medical practice.

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Selected References

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