Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use for Arthritis Pain in 2 Chicago Community Areas

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To compare the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for arthritis between 2 ethnically distinct metropolitan Chicago community areas.


A telephone interview survey of adults age 45 years or above living in North (88.9% white) or South (79.7% African American) areas. Of 763 respondents, 405 reported arthritis or chronic joint symptoms and were asked about use and satisfaction with 7 CAM therapies. Differences between areas were compared with population-weighted tests; multiple logistic regression was used to analyze the likelihood of CAM use controlled for demographics, behavioral risk factors, and arthritis severity.


South Chicago respondents had a higher prevalence and more severe arthritis symptoms such as mean joint pain and more functional limitations. Use of CAM therapy by South Chicago respondents, most commonly massage and relaxation techniques, was 10% greater than North Chicago respondents (61.5% to 51%) but this was not significantly different. Among CAM users, South Chicago respondents reported higher satisfaction with 6 of the 7 CAM therapies and greater future interest in CAM therapies. Poor overall health status (P=0.03), arthritis pain (P=0.005), and concomitant use of prescription medications (P=0.03) were the only significant predictors of CAM use.


Although there were only small differences in overall CAM use by area, older residents of largely African American communities were enthusiastic users of relaxation, massage, and nutritional and dietary techniques. CAM modalities could be important adjuncts to traditional medical treatment of arthritis pain for minority communities.

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