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October 2021

Short-Term Outcomes of Treatment for Musculoskeletal Disorders in a Hospital-Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine Clinic

Author(s): PHELEY, A., LENZ, S., CULLITON, P.

Abstract: Objective: Musculoskeletal (MS) disorders are among the more common conditions for which patients seek relief. The treatment of choice for MS disorders in Western medicine is the administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) agents. However, patients in increasing numbers are seeking out complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) for MS disorders. This report presents the results of a systematically conducted, short-term evaluation of MS patients seen in a hospital-based outpatient clinic that provides acupuncture and other alternative modalities.Design: During a 1.5-year period, 797 patients in our CAM clinic completed a structured questionnaire on their initial visit. The questionnaire elicited demographic and health history information and information regarding the nature and severity of the patients' health complaints. One-month after this baseline measurement and the beginning of CAM treatment, patients rated their complaint severity, improvement in the condition being treated and helpfulness of the CAM treatments. Of the 797 patients, 398 were treated for MS complaints and provide the basis for this report.Results: At the 1-month follow-up, severity of primary complaints diminished an average of 2.0 points (SD = 2.4) on a 10-point numerical scale (P < 0.001). Thirty percent of the patients reported severity reduction to 50% or more of baseline. Although self-reported improvement and change in severity were moderately correlated, baseline severity was inversely related to therapeutic helpfulness (P = 0.013). Improvement increased with number of treatments (P < 0.001); however, due to time constraints, treatment frequency was limited.Conclusions: Nearly half of the patients visiting our clinic sought relief for MS complaints. Our findings suggest that acupuncture treatment provides significant improvement of presenting symptoms within a short time period. Although discerning the long-term treatment effects was not the intent of this study, these findings contribute toward a consensus opinion that CAM therapies can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of MS disorders.

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