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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 1/2017

Chronic low back pain patients’ use of, level of knowledge of and perceived benefits of complementary medicine: a cross-sectional study at an academic pain center

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine > Ausgabe 1/2017
Julie Dubois, Emmanuelle Scala, Mohamed Faouzi, Isabelle Decosterd, Bernard Burnand, Pierre-Yves Rodondi
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12906-017-1708-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Chronic pain patients often use complementary medicine (CM) to alleviate their pain; however, little is known about the use of CM by chronic low back pain (cLBP) patients. We investigated the frequency of use of CM by cLBP patients, the perceived effects of these therapies, patients’ knowledge regarding CM, and patient-physician communication regarding CM.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted from November 2014 to February 2015. A questionnaire was distributed by physicians to 238 consecutive patients consulting for cLBP at the Pain Center of Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland. Poisson regression model was used to analyze patients’ level of knowledge regarding various CMs, and the logistic regression model was used to assess CM use for cLBP.


The questionnaire was returned by 168 cLBP patients (response rate: 70.6%). Lifetime prevalence of CM use for cLBP was 77.3%. The most commonly used therapies were osteopathy (48.8%), massage (45.2%) and acupuncture (31.6%), rated for their usefulness on a 0–10 scale as a mean ± SD of 5.4 ± 2.7, 5.9 ± 2.5 and 3.8 ± 3.2, respectively. The CM treatment best known by patients was osteopathy, followed by massage and acupuncture. If their doctors proposed CM as a treatment for cLBP, 78% of participants reported being very or somewhat likely to try CM. Respondents with CM health insurance were more likely to use CM (OR = 2.26; 95%CI: 1.07–4.78; p = 0.031) for cLBP. Respondents having experienced cLBP for more than five years were more likely to use CM to treat their cLBP than respondents having experienced cLBP for one year or less (OR = 2.84; 95%CI: 1.02–7.88; p = 0.044).


More than three-quarters of cLBP patients in our sample did use CM to treat their cLBP. The results showed that the most commonly used therapies were not necessarily the highest rated in terms of perceived usefulness. These results highlight the importance of developing integrative pain centers in which patients may obtain advice regarding CM treatments.
Additional file 1: Study questionnaire (in French). (DOCX 67 kb)
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