Survey of Conventional and Complementary and Alternative Therapy in Patients With Low Back Pain


Both conventional and alternative medical therapies are used by patients to treat low back pain, a condition that affects approximately 33% of the U.S. population. Little is known about patients’ perceptions of conventional versus alternative therapies. Patients recruited from an orthopedic spine clinic completed surveys containing questions about their use of many conventional and alternative therapies. Patients rated perceived helpfulness, side effects, and their recommendation for each therapy. They also completed a questionnaire that detailed demographic information, stress, and pain. Questionnaires were completed by 166 patients. Conventional medications were used by 154 (95%) patients, most commonly acetaminophen and opioid derivatives. Alternative therapies were used by 159 (96%) patients, including therapeutic exercises, salves, supplements, and stress management techniques. Generally, patients reported that alternative therapies are more effective and have fewer side effects and would more likely recommend their use. These data can be used to counsel patients and guide future research. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 25(1):27–33, 2016)
Key words: complementary and alternative medicine, low back pain, patient opinions

Tadhg O’Gara, MD; Kathi J. Kemper, MD, MPH; John Birkedal, MD; Walton Curl, MD; Neal Miller, BS; and Bryan Abadie, BS