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Pain research in complementary and alternative medicine in Australia: a critical review


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Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment

J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb;19(2):81-91.


Zhen Zheng, Charlie C L Xue


Background: Sixty percent (60%) to 80% of patients who visit chiropractic, osteopathic, or Chinese medicine practitioners are seeking pain relief.

Objectives: This article aimed to identify the amount, quality, and type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) pain research in Australia by systematically and critically reviewing the literature.

Methods: PubMed, Scopus, Australasian Medical Index, and Cochrane library were searched from their inception to July 2009. Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registration and National Health and Medical Research Council databases were searched for human studies yet to be completed. Predefined search terms and selection criteria were used for data identification.

Results: Of 204 studies selected, 54% were on chiropractic, 27% on Chinese medicine, 15% about multitherapy, and 4% on osteopathy. Chronic spinal pain was the most studied condition, with visceral pain being the least studied. Half of the articles in Chinese medicine or multitherapy were systematic reviews or randomized control trials. In comparison, only 5% of chiropractic and none of osteopathy studies were in these categories. Government funding was rare, and most studies were self-funded or internally funded. All chiropractic, osteopathic, and Chinese herbal medicine studies were conducted by the researchers of the professions. In contrast, half of the acupuncture studies and all t'ai chi studies were conducted by medical doctors or physiotherapists. Multidisciplinary collaboration was uncommon.

Conclusions: The quantity and the quality of CAM pain research in Australia are inconsistent with the high utilization of the relevant CAM therapies by Australians. A substantial increase in government funding is required. Collaborative research examining the multimodality or multidisciplinary approach is needed.

Publication Date: 

2013 Feb



Zheng, Z., Xue, LCC. (2013) 'Pain research in complementary and alternative medicine in Australia: a critical review ', J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb;19(2):81-91.

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