Alternative health care: Its use by individuals with physical disabilities

Herbert H. Krauss, Christopher Godfrey, Jean Kirk, David M. Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Scopus citations


Objective: This research investigated the use of alternative therapies by individuals with physical disabilities. Design: A telephone survey of a cross-sectional convenience sample of people with disabilities. Setting: An urban, outpatient rehabilitation facility specializing in vocational services. Participants: A convenience sample of 401 working-age individuals. Main Outcome Measure(s): Self-reported use of alternative therapy. Results: More of this sample of individuals with physical disabilities than a randomized, national sample of the general population used alternative therapies (57.1% vs 34%) and saw providers of those therapies (22% vs 10%). Among individuals in the current sample, significant positive relationships between use of alternative therapies and education and income levels were discovered. The use of alternative therapies by this sample, however, was not associated with racial identity, gender, or age. Compared with the general population, this study's respondents reported a higher proportion of chronic pain (14% vs 8%) and depression (14% vs 8%), and a lower proportion of severe headache (9.2% vs 13%). Alternative therapies were chosen more often than conventional therapies by those with physical disabilities for pain (51.8% vs 33.9%), depression (33.9% vs 25%), anxiety (42.1% vs 13.1%), insomnia (32.3% vs 16.1%), and headaches (51.4% vs 18.9%). Conclusion: Physically disabled individuals are more likely to use alternative therapies than the general population and to see providers for them, have their use recommended by their physicians, and be reimbursed by their health insurance for them. A high prevalence of dysphoria is found among those with disabilities, for which a combination of alternative and conventional therapies is often used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1440-1447
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1998

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