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Back pain amongst 8,910 young Australian women: a longitudinal analysis of the use of conventional providers, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners and self-prescribed CAM

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Back problems and back pain are amongst the most prevalent conditions afflicting Australians and carry high direct and indirect costs for the health care systems of all developed countries. A major gap in the research literature on this topic is the longitudinal analysis of health seeking behaviour for people with back pain. All studies to date have been cross-sectional and it is important that the use of different providers (both conventional and complementary and alternative medicine, CAM) is examined over time. This study analysed data from a longitudinal study conducted over a 3-year period on 8,910 young Australian women. Information on health service use, self-prescribed treatments, and health status was obtained from two questionnaires mailed to study participants in 2003 and 2006. We found that there is little difference in the consultation practises or use of self-prescribed CAM between women who recently sought help for back pain and women who had longer-term back pain; the only difference being that women with longer-term back pain consulted more with chiropractors. We conclude that women who seek help for their back pain are frequent visitors to a range of conventional and CAM practitioners and are also high users of self-prescribed CAM treatments. The frequent use of a range of conventional providers and practitioner-based and self-prescribed CAM amongst women with back pain warrants further investigation.

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The research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, The University of Newcastle and The University of Queensland. We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA) for funding and to the women who provided the survey data.



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Correspondence to David William Sibbritt.

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Sibbritt, D.W., Adams, J. Back pain amongst 8,910 young Australian women: a longitudinal analysis of the use of conventional providers, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners and self-prescribed CAM. Clin Rheumatol 29, 25–32 (2010).

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