Methods: All chiropractic clinics in Denmark were asked to collect information on new patients during 1 randomly assigned week in 2002 using a survey questionnaire. All 52 weeks of the year 2002 were represented with an even dispersion of weeks (182 clinics participated). Outcome measures included age, sex, education, occupation, location and duration of chief complaint, pain intensity, limitation of activities of daily living, mode of referral, duration of sick leave, previous treatments, comorbidity, SF-12, smoking habits, and use of x-ray.
Results: Eighty-five percent of all chiropractic clinics in Denmark participated in the study, and 1595 patients (81%) filled out a self-administered questionnaire. As in 1999, the most frequent area of complaint was pain related to the lower back and pelvis (49%). Contrary to the 1999 survey, most of the patients (64%) had complaints of less than 4 weeks of duration. Twenty-nine percent of the patients had been off work because of their symptoms; most of these for less than 1 week. Fifty-one percent of all patients were referred to chiropractors in 2002 (doubling since 1999). Referrals from general medical practitioners rose from 11% in 1999 to 17% in 2002. Sixty percent of all patients had similar symptoms in the past, and approximately half had previously received treatment of the same or a similar problem. Thirty percent of first-time chiropractic patients were x-rayed. Compared with general population measures, Danish chiropractic patients had significantly worse physical health status measured by the SF-12.
Conclusions: Most Danish chiropractic patients complain of pain related to the spine, especially the lower back, with duration of symptoms of less than 4 weeks, and many with recurrent back pain. Referrals from general medical practitioners have increased since 1999.
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