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Primary care patients' use of conventional and complementary medicine for chronic low back pain


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Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment

J Pain Res. 2019 Jul 10;12:2101-2112.


Pierre-Yves Rodondi, Anne-Sylvie Bill, Nadia Danon, Julie Dubois, Jérôme Pasquier, Florence Matthey-de-l'Endroit, Lilli Herzig, Bernard Burnand


Purpose: To investigate among primary care patients and their physicians in western Switzerland the prevalence of use, perceived usefulness, and communication about common treatments for chronic or recurrent low back pain (crLBP) including complementary medicine (CM).

Patients and methods: A cross-sectional cluster observational study involving 499 crLBP patients visiting 45 primary care physicians (PCPs) was conducted from November 1, 2015, to May 31, 2016. Patients and primary care physicians completed questionnaires about lifetime use and usefulness of 30 crLBP therapies. We conducted multivariate analyses of factors associated with therapy use, including sociodemographic variables, pain duration, insurance coverage, and primary care physicians' characteristics.

Results: The five most frequent modalities used at least once by patients were physiotherapy (81.8%), osteopathic treatment (63.4%), exercise therapy (53.4%), opioids (52.5%), and therapeutic massage (50.8%). For their PCPs, the five most useful therapies were physiotherapy, osteopathic treatment, yoga, meditation, and manual therapy. In multivariate analysis, the use of physiotherapy was significantly associated with longer pain duration; osteopathic treatment was associated with age under 75 years, female gender, higher education, and CM insurance coverage. Exercise therapy was associated with non-smoking and longer pain duration. Smokers were more likely and patients of PCPs with CM training were less likely to have used opioids. During their lifetime, 86.6% of the participants had used at least one CM therapy to manage their crLBP, with a mean of 3.3 (SD=2.9) therapies used per participant; 46.1% of participants reported that their PCP did not enquire about CM use. Among CM users, 64.7% informed their PCP about it.

Conclusion: Patients with crLBP use a variety of treatments, including self-prescribed and unreimbursed therapies, most frequently physiotherapy and osteopathy. The results suggest that PCPs should systematically discuss with their patients the treatments they tried to manage crLBP, including CM.

Publication Date: 

2019 Jul



Rodondi, P., Bill, A., Danon, N., Dubois, J., Pasquier, J., Matthey-de-l'endroit, F., Herzig, L., Burnand, B. (2019) 'Primary care patients' use of conventional and complementary medicine for chronic low back pain ', J Pain Res. 2019 Jul 10;12:2101-2112.

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