Integrative Medicine Patients Have High Stress, Pain, and Psychological Symptoms

Publication University of California, San Francisco

Ruth Q. Wolever, Nikita S. Goel, Rhonda S. Roberts, Karen Caldwell, Benjamin Kligler, Jeffery A. Dusek, Adam Perlman, Rowena Dolor, Donald I. Abrams.

Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):296-303



Integrative medicine (IM) is a rapidly growing field whose providers report clinical success in treating significant stress, chronic pain, and depressive and anxiety symptoms. While IM therapies have demonstrated efficacy for numerous medical conditions, IM for psychological symptoms has been slower to gain recognition in the medical community.

Objective and Design

This large, cross-sectional study is the first of its kind to document the psychosocial profiles of 4182 patients at 9 IM clinics that form the BraveNet Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN).


IM patients reported higher levels of perceived stress, pain, and depressive symptoms, and lower levels of quality of life compared with national norms. Per provider reports, 60% of patients had at least one of the following: stress (9.3%), fatigue (10.2%), anxiety (7.7%), depression (7.2%), and/or sleep disorders (4.8%). Pain, having both physiological and psychological components, was also included and is the most common condition treated at IM clinics. Those with high stress, psychological conditions, and pain were most frequently treated with acupuncture, IM physician consultation, exercise, chiropractic services, diet/nutrition counseling, and massage.


With baseline information on clinical presentation and service utilization, future PBRN studies can examine promising interventions delivered at the clinic to treat stress and psychological conditions.