Alternative health care: Its use by individuals with physical disabilities

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

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65 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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
From the Department of Rehabilitation Research at ICD International Center for the Disabled, New York, NY (Dr. Krauss, Mr. Godfrey, Ms. Kirk) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA (Dr. Eisenberg). Submitted for publication October 10, 1997. Accepted in revised form June 29, 1998. Supported in part by a grant from Pfizer Inc., New York, NY. No commercial party having a direct financial interest in the results of the research supporting this article has or will confer a benefit upon the authors or upon any organization with which the authors are associated. Reprint requests to Herbert H. Krauss, PhD, ICD International Center for the Disabled, 340 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010. © 1998 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 0003-9993/98/7911-468553.00/0


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