Use and efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for victims of intimate partner abuse

What you need to know:

No studies measuring the level of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use amongst victims of intimate partner abuse (IPA) victims were identified. Three studies were found that assessed the effect of CAM on the mental health of this population, with two looking at yogic breathing, and one assessing music therapy. All studies showed some beneficial effects; however, each had a small sample, brief intervention period, and no follow-up measurement and were considered to be at high risk of bias.

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What this research is about:

IPA is a widespread and serious public health problem. Despite its substantial mental health burden, findings indicate that consultation with mental health services amongst victims is sub-optimal, and suggest a potentially important role for CAM as an alternate source of healing. However, no systematic review has examined the use, or effectiveness, of CAM amongst this population. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which victims of IPA use CAM, and to examine the effects of CAM on their mental health.

What did the researchers do:

A systematic review was conducted, with Medline, Scopus, and Web of Science searched for (i) studies measuring the extent to which victims of IPA use CAM and (ii) the effects of CAM on their mental health. No language, publication date, or publication status restrictions were imposed. One author extracted data based on predefined selection criteria. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration tool.

What did the research find:

The literature search provided a total of 160 citations, 47 of which were duplicates. Of these, two studies met the selection criteria concerning CAM effectiveness, while another effectiveness study was identified by checking the reference lists of these papers. No studies measuring the level of CAM use amongst IPA victims were identified. Of the three studies assessing CAM effectiveness, two looked at yogic breathing, while one assessed the effect of music therapy. All three studies showed some beneficial effects; however, each had a small sample, brief intervention period, and no follow-up measurement and were considered to be at high risk of bias.

How can you use this research:

The review highlights the lack of research examining the use and efficacy of CAM for victims of IPA. Findings from the studies suggest that CAM, specifically music therapy and yogic breathing, may be beneficial to people who have experienced IPA, however methodological limitations mean that these results should be interpreted with caution. It is important that future research measures the uptake of CAM amongst this population, and that more rigorous and methodologically-sound investigations of the effects of CAM are conducted. This work should include larger sample sizes, longer interventions and extended follow-up periods.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine; systematic review; intimate partner abuse; violence; women’s health

Contact person: Luke Duffy – Luke.Duffy@newcastle.edu.au

Citation: Duffy L, Adams J, Sibbritt D, Loxton D. Complementary and alternative medicine for victims of intimate partner abuse: A systematic review of use and efficacy. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014, 963967.