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Consultations with complementary and alternative medicine practitioners amongst wider care options for back pain: a study of a nationally representative sample of 1,310 Australian women aged 60–65 years

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Abstract

Back pain is a significant health service issue in Australia and internationally. Back pain sufferers can draw upon a range of health care providers including complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners. Women are higher users of health services than men and tend to use CAM frequently for musculoskeletal conditions. However, there remain important gaps in our understanding of women’s consultation patterns with CAM practitioners for back pain. The objective of this study is to examine the prevalence of use and characteristics of women who use CAM practitioners for back pain. The method used was a survey of a nationally representative sample of women aged 60–65 years from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Women consulted a massage therapist (44.1 %, n = 578) and a chiropractor (37.3 %, n = 488) more than other CAM practitioners for their back pain. Consultations with a chiropractor for back pain were lower for women who consulted a General Practitioner (GP) (OR, 0.56; 95 % CI 0.41, 0.76) or a physiotherapist (OR, 0.53; 95 % CI 0.39, 0.72) than for those who did not consult a GP or a physiotherapist. CAM practitioner consultations for back pain were greater for women who visited a pharmacist (OR, 1.99; 95 % CI 1.23, 3.32) than for women who did not visit a pharmacist. There is substantial use of CAM practitioners alongside conventional practitioners amongst women for back pain, and there is a need to provide detailed examination of the communication between patients and their providers as well as across the diverse range of health professionals involved in back pain care.

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Acknowledgments

The research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA) and the Australian Research Council (DP110104636) for funding and to the women who provided the survey data.

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Correspondence to Jon Adams.

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Murthy, V., Sibbritt, D., Adams, J. et al. Consultations with complementary and alternative medicine practitioners amongst wider care options for back pain: a study of a nationally representative sample of 1,310 Australian women aged 60–65 years. Clin Rheumatol 33, 253–262 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-013-2357-5

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