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Open Access Research article

Patients visiting the complementary medicine clinic for pain: a cross sectional study

Roni Peleg13*, Orly Liberman2, Yan Press1 and Pesach Shvartzman1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, Department of Pain and Palliative Care Unit, Siaal Family Medicine and Primary Care Research Center, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

2 Recanati School for Community Health Professions, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

3 Complementary Medicine Clinic, Clalit Health Services - Southern District, Beer-Sheva, Israel

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:36  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-36

Published: 5 May 2011



Pain is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical care. The purpose of this study was to characterize patients visiting the complementary medicine clinic for a pain complaint.


This is a cross-sectional study. The study took place at Clalit Health Services (CHS) complementary clinic in Beer-Sheva, Israel. Patients visiting the complementary clinic, aged 18 years old and older, Hebrew speakers, with a main complaint of pain were included. Patients were recruited consecutively on random days of the month during a period of six months. Main outcome measures were: pain levels, location of pain, and interference with daily activities. Once informed consent was signed patients were interviewed using a structured questionnaire by a qualified nurse. The questionnaire included socio-demographic data, and the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI).


Three-hundred and ninety-five patients were seen at the complementary medicine clinic during the study period, 201 (50.8%) of them met the inclusion criteria. Of them, 163 (81.1%) agreed to participate in the study and were interviewed. Pain complaints included: 69 patients (46.6%) with back pain, 65 (43.9%) knee pain, and 28 (32.4%) other limbs pain. Eighty-two patients (50.3%) treated their pain with complementary medicine as a supplement for their conventional treatment, and 55 (33.7%) felt disappointed from the conventional medicine experience. Eighty-three patients (50.9%) claimed that complementary medicine can result in better physical strength, or better mental state 51 (31.3%). Thirty-seven patients (22.7%) were hoping that complementary medicine will prevent invasive procedures.


Given the high proportion of patients with unsatisfactory pain relief using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), general practitioners should gain knowledge about CAM and CAM providers should gain training in pain topics to improve communication and counsel patients. More clinical research to evaluate safety and efficiency of CAM for pain is needed to provide evidence based counseling.