Why Patients Don't Talk About Alternative Therapy

posted by Pivotal Health Solutions on Friday, August 7, 2015

Communicating with their physician may be one of the most important things that patients can do for their own health, but a recent study has found that a substantial number of patients with chronic pain don't share the fact that they may be seeking alternative therapies to treat their pain

The study surveyed 6,100 chronic pain patients in Oregon and Washington state. Forty-seven percent of patients reported that they had sought chiropractic care; 32 percent said they had used acupuncture; and 21 percent said they had tried both therapies. Yet 42 percent of patients who had visited a chiropractor said they didn't discuss these treatments with their primary care physicians, and 35 percent who had seen an acupuncturist reported the same. Interestingly enough, most patients surveyed said they would have shared the information if their primary care doctor had asked. 

Study authors speculated that patients perhaps did not feel the information was important, did not think their doctor would care, or thought that their doctor might have a negative view of alternative treatments. However, because pain is such a complex condition, it is important for patients and physicians to have a dialogue about all therapies that patients may be trying. That way, physicians can have a comprehensive view of the care plan and can better coordinate and advise care. When it comes to pain, the study authors said, "More communication is better." 

Many people with chronic pain aren't telling their primary doctors about their use of alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic work, a new study suggests.

However, such communication is needed to ensure people get the best treatment for their pain, the authors of the research say. Chronic pain conditions can include back pain, arthritis, muscle pain, headache and fibromyalgia.

"The study shows that a substantial percent of patients with chronic pain don't tell their primary doctors about their use of complementary and alternative medicine," said Dr. Charles Elder, the study's lead author and an investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon. Elder and his colleagues didn't look at the reasons that people who suffer from chronic pain conditions neglect to tell their doctors about their use of alternative treatments. Even so, he speculated these patients may not feel it's important to mention, may not think their doctor will care, or may believe their doctor will have a negative view of complementary and alternative medicine. 

This article excerpt, by Cari Nierenberg, originally appeared here: http://www.livescience.com/51606-chronic-pain-alternative-medicine.html.

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