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How do people with spinal cord injury in Switzerland use complementary and alternative medicine?

How do people with spinal cord injury in Switzerland use complementary and alternative medicine?

Authors of summary: Camilla Soldati (Swiss Paraplegic Research) and Jürgen Pannek (Swiss Paraplegic Center)

Original article: Pannek J, Pannek-Rademacher S, Wöllner J. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in persons with spinal cord injury in Switzerland: a survey study. Spinal Cord, 2015;53(7):569-72.

Patients with spinal cord injury responded to a questionnaire regarding the utilization of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). For what type of symptoms do they use CAM? What is their level of satisfaction with these kinds of treatment?

Homeopathic globules

What was the aim of the study?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is defined as “treatments that are used along with conventional medicine or that are used in place of conventional medicine” (Mayo Clinic, 2014). Typical forms of CAM are acupuncture and homeopathy.

CAM techniques can also be used on patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) in order to prevent or mitigate frequent and unpleasant symptoms such as pain or spasticity.

The goal of this study was to investigate whether, how much, and why patients with SCI use CAM techniques. Furthermore, their satisfaction with different CAM techniques was assessed.

How did the researchers proceed?

In order to assess the use and satisfaction of people with SCI toward CAM procedures, the researchers created a questionnaire. 103 German-speaking patients (66 men and 37 women, 70 individuals with paraplegia and 33 with tetraplegia) of the Swiss Paraplegic Center responded to the questionnaire answering five questions concerning:

  • Overall use of CAM
  • Current use of CAM
  • Indications for CAM treatment
  • Treatment satisfaction
  • Recommendations of the treatment to friends and relatives

The responses were analyzed with statistical tools.


What did the researchers discover?

73.8% of the participants had tried at least one CAM technique during the course of SCI. CAM is commonly used as a supplementary treatment in combination with conventional methods. CAM was used most frequently to alleviate different types of pain and to treat urinary tract infections and spasticity.

Among the different types of CAM, SCI patients showed the greatest appreciation for acupuncture and homeopathy. They reported to favor acupuncture for treating pain and they used homeopathy and Schuessler tissue salts for prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections.

Overall, the majority of participants that were using CAM claimed to be satisfied or even very satisfied with this kind of approach. Not surprisingly, 85.5% of them would recommend it to friends or relatives.

Schuessler tissue salts

What do these findings mean?

Most of the participants having experience with CAM were satisfied with this kind of approach. In fact, CAM can be helpful when the patient has to deal with chronic conditions like pain or urinary tract infections. Nevertheless, it is important to stress that this form of treatment was always used in combination with the conventional treatments.

In summary, using CAM as an additional treatment for certain symptoms seems to have beneficial effects for patients with SCI.

Who conducted the study?

The study was carried out by the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil (Switzerland) and the SHI Homeopathic Practice in Zug (Switzerland).


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