Background: Because maintenance care (MC) is frequently used by chiropractors in the management of patients with back pain, it is necessary to define the rationale, frequency and indications for MC consultations, and the contents of such consultations. The objectives of the two studies described in this article are: i) to determine the typical spacing between visits for MC patients and to compare MC and non-MC patients, ii) to describe the content of the MC consultation and to compare MC and non-MC patients and iii) to investigate the purposes of the MC program.
Method: In two studies, chiropractors who accepted the MC paradigm were invited to assist with the data collection. In study 1, patients seen by seven different chiropractors were observed by two chiropractic students. They noted the contents of the observed consultations. In study 2, ten chiropractors invited their MC patients to participate in an anonymous survey. Participants filled in a one page questionnaire containing questions on their view of the purposes and contents of their MC consultations. In addition, information was obtained on the duration between appointments in both studies.
Results: There were 178 valid records in study 1, and in study 2 the number of questionnaires received was 373. The time interval between MC visits was close to nine weeks and for non-MC consultations it was two weeks. The content of the consultations in study 1 was similar for MC and non-MC patients with treatment being the most time-consuming element followed by history taking/examination. MC consultations were slightly shorter than non-MC consultations. In study 2, the most common activities reported to have taken place were history taking and manipulative therapy. The most commonly reported purposes were to prevent recurring problems, to maintain best possible function and /or to stay as pain free as possible.
Conclusions: The results from these two studies indicate that MC consultations commonly take place with around two months intervals, and that history taking, examination and treatment are as important components in MC as in non-MC consultations. Further, the results demonstrate that most patients consider the goal to be secondary or tertiary prevention.
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