Journal of Neurology

, Volume 257, Issue 11, pp 1822–1831 | Cite as

Complementary and alternative medicine use among US adults with common neurological conditions

  • Rebecca Erwin WellsEmail author
  • Russell S. Phillips
  • Steven C. Schachter
  • Ellen P. McCarthy
Original Communication


Our objective was to determine patterns, reasons for, and correlates of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in US adults with common neurological conditions. We compared CAM use between adults with and without common neurological conditions (regular headaches, migraines, back pain with sciatica, strokes, dementia, seizures, or memory loss) using the 2007 National Health Interview Survey of 23,393 sampled US adults. Adults with common neurological conditions used CAM more frequently than those without (44.1 vs. 32.6%, p < 0.0001); differences persisted after adjustment. For each CAM modality, adults with common neurological conditions were more likely to use CAM than those without these conditions. Nearly half of adults with back pain with sciatica, memory loss, and migraines reported use of CAM. Mind/body therapies were used the most; alternative medical systems were used the least. Over 50% of adults with common neurological conditions who used CAM had not discussed their use with their health care provider. Those with neurological conditions used CAM more often than those without because of provider recommendation, or because conventional treatments were perceived ineffective or too costly. Significant correlates of CAM use among adults with common neurological conditions include higher than high school education, anxiety in the prior year, living in the west, being a former smoker, and light alcohol use. CAM is used more frequently among adults with common neurological conditions than those without. More research on the efficacy of CAM use for common neurological conditions is warranted.


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) Sciatic back pain Headaches Seizures Stroke Dementia 



Dr. Wells was supported by an institutional National Research Service Award Number T32AT000051 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Phillips was supported by a Mid-Career Investigator Award K24AT000589 and Dr. McCarthy was supported by R03AT002236, also from NCCAM. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine or the National Institutes of Health.

Conflicts of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Erwin Wells
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Russell S. Phillips
    • 2
  • Steven C. Schachter
    • 3
  • Ellen P. McCarthy
    • 2
  1. 1.Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Osher Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Landmark Center401 Park Drive, Suite 22A-WestBostonUSA
  2. 2.Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of MedicineBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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