METHODS: Consecutive new and returning chiropractic patients were invited to participate in a telephone survey. Willing subjects signed an IRB-approved consent form and two days after the chiropractic care a research assistant contacted the patient by telephone to inquire about negative and positive side effects. Questions used for screening were developed from previously published studies.
RESULTS: One hundred and thirty-three consecutive patients at a chiropractic teaching clinic were approached to participate and 33 declined, leaving 100 subjects who agreed to participate in the telephone survey. Two subjects were subsequently unavailable. Of the 98 subjects remaining, the majority were female (54%), Caucasian (85%), married (57%), and considered a returning patient (90%). The primary reason for seeking care was back pain (49%), lower extremity pain (21%), neck pain (19%), and upper extremity pain (17%).
Of the 98 subjects, 11 (11%) experienced minor negative side effects after the chiropractic treatment with 9 subjects stating a presence of local discomfort and 2 stating discomfort radiating to another area. The median level of discomfort was 4 out of 10 (ranging 1 to 8), started less than six hours after treatment, and lasted from 10 minutes to 2 days. The majority of subjects stated that the negative side effect did not affect normal daily activities at home or at work. There were no major side effects.
Thirteen of the 98 subjects (13%) demonstrated at least one unexpected positive side effect from the chiropractic treatment with 3 demonstrating respiratory benefits, 2 demonstrating circulation benefits, and 10 demonstrating ‘other’ benefits such as improved energy, attitude, and mental well-being.
DISCUSSION: The results found in this pilot study demonstrate a lower percentage of negative and positive side effects compared to previous studies. Methodological differences may have affected the results such as screening after only one visit rather than up to six visits as in previous studies. Differing results may also be due to a patient response bias within this population. This pilot study is the first to define the incidence of side effects due to treatment by chiropractic interns compared to previous data on Scandinavian chiropractors. These data are useful for educational purposes and also for defining logistical problems for future studies on this topic.
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