OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to describe the pattern of use of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) and identify the determinants of CAM use in a multi-ethnic Swedish primary health care practice population. METHODS: A questionnaire was handed out to 1433 patients aged 16 years and above who visited the Jordbro Health Centre (JHC) in Stockholm, Sweden, between 14 January and 30 June 2002. The results were linked to computerised medical records. RESULTS: Seventeen percent of respondents had consulted a CAM provider during the preceding year and many patients had consulted several types of CAM providers. The most frequently CAM used was massage, followed by acupuncture, chiropractic and naprapathy. In the logistic regression, when adjusting for the influence of possible confounders, chronic disease and physical activity were the most important predictors of consultations with CAM providers. Users of CAM had had a higher number of consultations with medical professionals than had non-users of alternative medicine. CONCLUSIONS: In our study population CAM, defined here as "manual therapy", was used in addition to traditional therapies and was related to high use of health care services. Chronic disease and physical activity were significantly and independently related to use of CAM.