Predictors of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Chronic Pain Patients


Carmen R. Green, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, 1H247 University Hospital, 1500 E, Medical Center Drive, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0048, USA. Tel: 734-936-4240; Fax: 734-936-9091; E-mail:


Objective.  We used Andersen's behavioral model of healthcare utilization to assess the relationship between sociodemographic, physical and psychosocial factors, and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use among chronic pain patients. Three practitioner-based alternative therapies were considered: acupuncture, biofeedback/relaxation training, and manipulation services.

Design.  A retrospective analysis of self-reported clinical data with 5,750 black and white adults presenting for initial assessment between 1994 and 2000 at the University of Michigan Multidisciplinary Pain Center was performed.

Results.  CAM therapies were used in high frequencies, with 34.7% users. Specifically 8.3% used acupuncture, 13.0% used biofeedback/relaxation, and 24.9% used manipulation techniques. Race and age were predisposing factors associated with CAM use. Blacks used less biofeedback/relaxation and manipulation services than whites. Aging was related to more acupuncture, but less biofeedback/relaxation use. Women marginally used more biofeedback/relaxation services than men, and education was positively associated with all three CAM use. Perceived pain control was a consistent enabling factor positively correlated with the use of all three CAM services. Among need factors, pain characteristics and physical health were positively associated with at least one of the modalities. Depressive symptoms were not related to CAM services use.

Conclusion.  This study identifies variable patterns of CAM usage based on sociodemographic and health factors in chronic pain patients. Overall, who uses CAM depends on the modality; however, education, pain severity, and pain duration are persistent correlates of CAM usage regardless of the therapy considered. We found that mental health, as measured by depressive symptoms, had no noticeable impact on CAM usage among chronic pain patients. The clinical, policy, and research implications of CAM use are discussed.