Massage therapy is one type of popular complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); others include, but are not limited to, aromatherapy, chiropractic and meditation.

In a national sample of more than 12,000 patients with spine problems, those who used some CAM had lower yearly medical costs—primarily due to lower inpatient expenditures—than did those who used no CAM.

The study was published recently in the journal Medical Care.

A total of 12,036 respondents with spine problems were included, including 4,306 (35.8 percent) CAM users, according to a press release. CAM users had significantly better self-reported health, education and comorbidity compared with non-CAM users.

Adjusted annual medical costs among CAM users was $424 lower for spine-related costs, and $796 lower for total health care cost than among non-CAM users, according to the press release.

Average expenditure for CAM users, based on propensity matching, was $526 lower for spine-specific costs and $298 lower for total health costs, the press release noted. Expenditure differences were primarily due to lower inpatient expenditures among CAM users.