A recent survey of U.S. veterans indicates many veterans self-reported prior use and willingness to continue to use complementary medicine (CAM), which for this study included massage therapy, chiropractic, herbal medicines and acupuncture.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to survey specific CAM modality use and interest among a large sample of veterans who have chronic noncancer pain,” the investigators stated. “Our results support the efforts of the VA to increase access to CAM treatment options for veterans and suggest that the addition of massage therapy as a treatment option would be popular among veterans with chronic pain.”

The participants were 401 veterans in a randomized controlled trial of a collaborative intervention for chronic pain from five Department of Veterans Affairs primary care clinics. Some had used CAM and some had not.

“We did not detect differences in treatment satisfaction or pain treatment effectiveness ratings between the two groups,” the investigators noted. “This is in contrast to our expectations that among veterans with chronic pain, use of CAM would be driven by dissatisfaction with, or a perceived lack of effectiveness of, available treatment options for pain.

“These results suggest that veteran patients with chronic pain may use CAM, not as a reaction to perceived inadequacies of conventional care, but rather as an additional tool in pain management.,” they added.

Among the results:

• A majority of the veterans, 82 percent, reported prior use of at least one CAM modality

• Near all the veterans, 99 percent, were willing to try CAM treatment for pain.

• Massage therapy was the most preferred option, at 92 percent

• Chiropractic care was the least preferred option, at 75 percent.

“Complementary and alternative medicine use among veterans with chronic noncancer pain” was published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development.

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