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.


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.


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.


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.

Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2013 Mar;42(3):133-7.

Tan MG, Win MT, Khan SA.

Department of Anaesthesia and Surgical Intensive Care, Singapore General Hospital, Outram Road, Singapore 169608. michelle.tan.g.e@sgh.com.sg