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Study: Chronic Pain Patients Don't Tell Doctors About Alternative Treatments

A study by Kaiser Permanente has found that many chronic pain patients don't tell their doctors when they seek alternative treatments.

More than 50 percent of chronic pain patients surveyed used either acupuncture or chiropractic therapies to manage their pain. However, 35 percent of patients who only had acupuncture and 42 percent who only had chiropractic care didn't disclose that information to their primary care provider.

Mary Sawyers with Kaiser Permanente said there are several reasons patients may not disclose the information.

"It could be they're skeptical that their doctors aren't going to be accepting of them using acupuncture or chiropractic care, it could also just be that they don't have time to talk about it during the appointment or that they don't think about it, or that their doctor doesn't ask then about it."

More than 100 million people suffer from chronic pain annually in the United States.

Sawyers said it's important for doctors to have the conversation with patients.

"If your primary care doctor is looking at your medication or sending you to physical therapy and he or she doesn't know that you are getting acupuncture or chiropractic care, that would be an important piece for them to know," said Sawyers.

Sawyers said that almost all of the patients who didn't tell their doctors about the extra care also said they would have if the doctor had asked.

"We knew that a lot of our patients were using acupuncture and chiropractic care but we didn't know that it was this many. That 58 percent is a good chunk of patients," she said.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Courtney Christy