Study design: Cross-sectional mailed survey.
Participants: Registered chiropractors in the province of Saskatchewan.
Methods: A survey was mailed to all registrants of the Chiropractors’ Association of Saskatchewan. Respondents graded their frequency of using various standardized pencil-and-paper instruments and functional chiropractic, orthopaedic and neurological tests in the contexts of both the initial intake assessment (‘always,’ ‘commonly,’ ‘occasionally,’ or ‘never’) and the course of subsequent treatment (after ‘each visit,’ after ‘9–12 visits,’ ‘annually,’ when patient ‘not responding,’ on ‘dismissal/discharge,’ ‘never’ or for some ‘other’ reason). Data were tabulated for all item and response category combinations as frequencies and percentages using the total sample size as the denominator.
Results: Of 164 registered chiropractors, 62 (38%) returned a completed questionnaire. A pain diagram was the most commonly used subjective outcome measure and was administered routinely (either “always” or “commonly”) by 75% of respondents, at either the initial consultation or during a subsequent visit. Numerical rating and visual analogue scales were less popular (routinely used by 59% and 42% respectively). The majority of respondents (80%) seldom (“occasionally” or “never”) used spine pain-specific disability indices such as the Low Back Revised Oswestry, Neck Disability Index or the Roland-Morris Questionnaire. As well, they did not use standardized psychosocial instruments such as the Beck Depression Index, or general health assessment measures such as the SF-36 or SF-12 questionnaire. Neurological testing was the most commonly used objective outcome measure. Most respondents (84% to 95%) indicated that they continually monitored neurological status through dermatomal, manual muscle strength and deep tendon reflex testing. Ranges of motion were routinely measured by 95% of respondents, usually visually (96%) rather than goniometrically or by some other specialized device (7%).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the majority of chiropractors do not use psychosocial questionnaires or condition-specific disability indices to document baseline or subsequent changes in health status. Chiropractors are more likely to rely on medical history taking and pain drawings during an initial intake assessment, as well as neurological and visually estimated range of motion testing during both initial intake and subsequent treatment visits.
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