• Vol. 42 No. 3, 133–137
  • 15 March 2013

The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Chronic Pain Patients in Singapore: A Single-Centre Study



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Introduction: The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Singapore for a variety of conditions has been reported to be high. However in Asian chronic pain patients, there is no data on their use of CAM and its perceived benefits.

Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 210 patients was carried out in Pain Management Centre. Patients were interviewed directly on their use of CAM. The outcomes were prevalence of CAM use, the types of CAM used, the perceived efficacy and factors influencing its use.

Results: The prevalence of CAM users in chronic pain is 84%. The most common class of CAM is traditional Chinese medicine (68%) the subset of which, acupuncture, was most frequently utilised (49% of patients using CAM). In univariate analyses, ethnicity was significantly linked to CAM use but not gender, age, education level and income (P = 0.027). Specifically for neck pain, it was significant that patients were more likely to see a chiropractor, to use massage, to take take vitamins and ginseng to alleviate their symptoms. With upper limb pain, it was the use of Tui na, massage and seeing a TCM practitioner. For abdominal pain, it was the use of herbal medicines. The majority felt that CAM helped with their pain (72%) although less expressed satisfaction with CAM (64%). Reasons for using CAM included: having more control over their pain; fewer side effects; safety and lower costs compared to conventional medicine.

Conclusion: The use of CAM in chronic pain patients is higher than the general population. Most felt that it improved their pain. As part of multimodal therapy, CAM may have a role in the management of chronic pain.

Chronic pain is a prevalent disease that is often diffi cult to manage. According to a World Health Organisation survey, the worldwide prevalence of chronic pain is in the range of 20% to 30%.

Chronic pain disease has an impact not only on the individuals’ general health and psychological health, but also on society as well, in terms of higher health care costs and loss of working hours from absenteeism. Studies show that patients with chronic pain use health care services up to 5 times more than patients without pain.

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