Complementary and alternative medicine use among veterans with chronic noncancer pain

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44 Scopus citations


We describe prior use and willingness to try complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among 401 veterans experiencing chronic noncancer pain and explore differences between CAM users and nonusers. Participants in a randomized controlled trial of a collaborative intervention for chronic pain from five Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care clinics self-reported prior use and willingness to try chiropractic care, massage therapy, herbal medicines, and acupuncture. Prior CAM users were compared with nonusers on demographic characteristics, pain-related clinical characteristics, disease burden, and treatment satisfaction. A majority of veterans (n = 327, 82%) reported prior use of at least one CAM modality, and nearly all (n = 399, 99%) were willing to try CAM treatment for pain. Chiropractic care was the least preferred option, whereas massage therapy was the most preferred (75% and 96%, respectively). CAM users were less likely to have service-connection disabilities (54% vs 68%; chi square = 4.64, p = 0.03) and reported having spent a larger percentage of their lives in pain (26% vs 20%; Z = 1.40, p = 0.04) than nonusers. We detected few differences between veterans who had tried CAM and those who had not, suggesting that CAM may have broad appeal among veterans with chronic pain. Implications for VA policy and practice and for clinicians treating veterans with chronic pain are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1119-1128
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rehabilitation Research and Development
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2011


  • Acupuncture
  • Aged
  • Alternative therapies
  • Chiropractic
  • Chronic pain
  • Complementary therapies
  • Delivery of healthcare
  • Herbal medicine
  • Massage therapy
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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