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Alternative therapies for pain popular among Veterans

thumbnail Popular therapy—Massage therapist Alison Mitchinson tends to a patient at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. A study found that 97 percent of VA patients with chronic pain were open to trying massage. (Photo by Scott Galvin)

About half of U.S. primary care patients with chronic pain have used at least one form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), studies show. To find out how the Veteran population compares, researchers at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System surveyed 401 VA patients with chronic non-cancer pain about their experience with CAM, and their willingness to try any of four well-known CAM treatments: massage, chiropractic care, herbal medicines, and acupuncture. About 8 in 10 respondents said they had tried CAM in the past, and nearly all were willing to try one or more of the four CAM treatments. Massage was the most popular option, with nearly 97 percent of the respondents saying they were willing to try it. The authors note that the study suggests that Veterans are likely to want to use CAM as an adjunct to conventional care, rather than as a replacement for it. (Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 48(9), 2011)

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