Guidance for Using CAM to Manage Pain

There are many different treatment options available to lessen the effects of chronic pain, improve functioning, and enhance quality of life. According to current estimates, more than 116 million Americans are living with chronic pain. Physicians who manage patients with chronic pain often find it challenging to treat because what works for one person doesn’t always work for another (see also, Striving Toward Quality Pain Management). Effective pain management plans must be individualized, and integrative approaches—which include a combination of treatment options—are often needed. CAM Use More Common to Manage Pain Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly being used by patients to assist in their fight against chronic pain. CAM has been defined as a group of diverse practices and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine as practiced by physicians and allied health professionals. CAM practices are often grouped into two broad categories: 1) natural products and 2) mind and body medicine. “More than 83 million people in the United States use some form of CAM therapy to manage and treat their health problems, including pain.” It’s estimated that more than 83 million people in the United States use some form of CAM therapy to manage and treat their health problems, including pain. More than $33.9 billion a year is spent on out-of-pocket visits to CAM practitioners and for the purchase of CAM products, classes, and materials. Some of the most common pain-related reasons people seek CAM therapies are for back, joint, and neck pain, arthritis, severe headaches or migraines, and fibromyalgia. An Important Initiative on CAM Education To further educate healthcare providers, the...
Most Americans Using Alternative Therapies: Consumer Reports

Most Americans Using Alternative Therapies: Consumer Reports

A Consumer Reports survey found that while most Americans would choose prescription drugs to treat 12 common conditions, roughly 75% partake in alternative therapies, such as yoga and acupuncture. The survey of 45,601 people suggests that about 38 million adults nationwide visit acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and other complementary therapy providers a combined 300 million times per year, according to the publication’s report. While dietary supplements ranked well below OTC medications in many cases, chiropractic treatment, deep-tissue massage, and yoga dominated the list of alternative therapies for back and neck pain and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, 73% of respondents said they took mainstream vitamins and minerals, making these the most widely used alternatives for general health; other dietary supplements (57%) and mind-body or hands-on therapies (~20%) were also reported as alternatives. When Consumer Reports asked respondents why they chose a given alternative treatment, most people said they were simply “a proponent” of it. “Some people use these therapies because it’s just the way they were raised,” said Richard Nahin, PhD, MPH, senior adviser, scientific coordination and outreach, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH. He added that some respondents said they had gone through a transformational process that made them look at life differently. Some believed—in many cases mistakenly—that dietary supplements are safer than prescription medications because they are natural. Others chose alternatives to avoid the side effects of prescription medications for some conditions. The survey also suggests that physicians are selective when endorsing dietary supplements. They tended to direct patients toward fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin, which have some clinical evidence behind them. And although quite rare, according to...