“This study is the beginning of chiropractors documenting what they do in clinical practice.”
“The study showed that a range of conditions are managed by chiropractors but most commonly these conditions are musculoskeletal-related. Chiropractors also commonly provided care for people who had no specific complaint. This was called “wellness” or “maintenance care” by the chiropractors in the study,” Dr French said.
Chiropractic practice in Australia is considered a complementary healthcare therapy. Chiropractors use manual therapy to address musculoskeletal-related conditions (joints, ligaments, muscles and nerves of the body) with a focus on relieving joint dysfunction and pain.
“Very little current, reliable, information is available about chiropractic practice in Australia, including who consults chiropractors, why they consult chiropractors and for which conditions. We also wanted to examine what care chiropractors provide,” said Dr French.
In the first study of its kind looking at the role of the chiropractor in the healthcare setting, the study methods were based on the well-established BEACH study (Bettering the Evaluation And Care of Health: a continuous national study of general practice activity) that has been running in Australian general practice for over 15 years. Chiropractors in Victoria agreed to participate in this study and to record their clinical practice with 100 consecutive patients.
The most frequent care provided by the chiropractors was spinal manipulative therapy and massage. Common criticisms directed towards the chiropractic profession, including chiropractors providing care of infants and that chiropractors spend a very short time with patients, make up only a small proportion of chiropractic practice in Victoria.
“Considering the large proportion of encounters were for back and neck pain, it is reassuring that much of the chiropractic care recorded in this study is supported by evidence,” he said.
Chiropractic care is supported for the symptomatic relief of back and neck pain, although the effects are typically small. Although much of contemporary chiropractic care has supportive evidence, some aspects of chiropractic practice require further research in high quality studies to investigate effectiveness.
“The chiropractic profession in Australia has not traditionally had a strong research culture, but this is changing with the need to demonstrate to the community that the
profession is embracing evidence-based practice. This study helps to improve a more research-based culture by encouraging chiropractors in the field to document what they do. But more studies need to be undertaken involving more chiropractors in Australia” Dr French said.