Use of Alternative Therapies by Older Adults with Osteoarthritis

Use of Alternative Therapies by
Older Adults with Osteoarthritis

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Arthritis Rheum 2001 (Jun);   45 (3):   222227

Ramsey SD, Spencer AC, Topolski TD, Belza B, Patrick DL

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,
Seattle, Washington 98109, USA

Ramsey et al. looked at the rates of use of expenditures for CAM therapies for adults suffering from osteoarthritis. The participants for this study were drawn from a group who were involved in a clinical trial of warm water exercise for osteoarthritis. They ranged in age from 5575, and were located in the state of Washington. The participants recorded their use of both traditional and CAM services in a weekly postcard diary as well as in 2 far more detailed surveys administered at the beginning and end of the trial. Cost information was derived from a number of sources: Medicare reimbursement rates for CPT codes; averages for CAM care not covered by a CPT code were estimated by using average charges from a local survey of providers; medication costs were based on average wholesale prices; OTC medications were based on average charges from local pharmacies. The response was superb; 122 out of 124 people completed the study, 96% returned the weekly postcards and 99% completed the questionnaires. Fifty-eight individuals (47%) reported using at least 1 CAM therapy at the beginning of the observation period. Four percent used only CAM during the reporting period. The most common form of CAM was massage therapy, which was used by 57% of people, while chiropractic was second most common at 20.7%. The annualized expenditures for chiropractic (mean cost per user + SD) was $541.16 + $550.20, compared to $1422.65 + $1753.07 for massage therapy and $804.38 + $310.24 for acupuncture.

OBJECTIVE:   To examine the rates of use and expenditures on alternative therapies by adults with osteoarthritis (OA).

METHODS:   Adults with OA recruited from the community to participate in a randomized clinical trial recorded alternative and traditional health care use on postcard diaries. General and arthritis-specific quality of life was assessed by questionnaires.

RESULTS:   More than 47% of participants reported using at least one type of alternative care during the 20-week intervention period. Among alternative care consumers, the most commonly used treatments were massage therapy (57%), chiropractic services (20.7%), and nonprescribed alternative medications (17.2%). Four percent of subjects reported using only alternative care during the study period. Expenditures for alternative therapy averaged $1,127 per year, compared with $1,148 for traditional therapies.

CONCLUSION:   Use of and expenditures for alternative care were high among this cohort of older adults with OA. Clinicians may want to inquire about use of these therapies before recommending treatments for this condition.


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