J Am Board Fam Pract. 1998 May-Jun; 11(3): 193-9.
The use of alternative health care by a family practice population.
Department of Family Practice, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Wash, USA.
BACKGROUND: This study examined the characteristics of family practice patients using alternative medicine, the problems that led them to use it, and their satisfaction with its use. METHODS: A confidential questionnaire was mailed to 250 randomly selected adults enrolled in a large military family practice clinic, with a final response rate of 71 percent. RESULTS: More than 28 percent of patients used some form of alternative medicine. The typical user was 30 to 49 years old, female, white, and well educated. Common methods used were chiropractic (64 percent), massage therapy (36 percent), herbal therapy (32 percent), and acupuncture (16 percent). The most common problems for which patients sought alternative care were back pain (56 percent), other musculoskeletal pain (22 percent), and stress or other psychosocial problems (20 percent). Fewer than one half were satisfied with their alternative health care, although 82 percent reported at least some improvement in their conditions. Most (63 percent) had not told their family physician of their use of alternative health care. CONCLUSIONS: A substantial number of family practice patients are using alternative medicine. Although most derive some benefit, most are not satisfied with the results. Reasons for this disparity between satisfaction and effectiveness of alternative medicine deserve further study.