Website Offers Details on Risks, Side Effects of Popular Alternative Medicine

It is estimated that more than 83 million Americans use some form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to manage and treat their health problems including pain, spending more than $33.9 billion a year on out-of-pocket visits to CAM practitioners and purchases of CAM products, classes and materials. Some of the most common pain-related reasons people seek CAM therapies are for back pain, followed by neck pain, joint pain, arthritis, severe headaches or migraines and fibromyalgia pain.

The American Pain Foundation (APF) launched a new online educational module at the Web site,, focusing on the safe use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as part of its PainSAFE (Pain Safety & Access For Everyone) initiative, with information for both consumers and health care professionals.

“There are many different treatment options available to lessen the pain, improve functioning and enhance quality of life for the more than 116 million Americans living with chronic pain, including CAM therapy,” said Will Rowe, CEO of APF. “What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. An effective pain management plan must be individualized and very often an integrative approach, which includes a combination of treatment options, is needed.”

The module, developed with materials and assistance from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), provides information on the effectiveness of CAM therapies for managing pain, possible side effects and risks associated with each therapy, and how these therapies can be used safely. CAM therapies highlighted include acupuncture, massage, spinal manipulation, relaxation therapies, yoga, tai chi and dietary supplements.

“A person in pain should be informed about all of their treatment options, risks associated with each option, possible side effects, and how these options can safely be used to manage their pain,” Rowe said. “PainSAFE provides consumers the tools and resources they need to become active participants in their pain care and offers health care providers the latest scientific information on treatment modalities.”

In addition to this new module, PainSAFE also offers resources on over-the-counter medication, including acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. There is also an interactive Are You PainSAFE? quiz to allow people to test their pain safety knowledge.