Background: An increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine was identified in several countries including Australia. There is a need to assess the current position of chiropractic within the Australian health system.
Objectives: To estimate the lifetime prevalence of the use of chiropractic in Australia; to investigate the perceptions and attitudes of Australian general public about: their health status, the chiropractic profession, chiropractic and health services in general.
Methods: A survey was carried out in which a novel 21-item questionnaire was utilised. To obtain a sample whose opinions would be representative of the Australian general population with a 95% level of significance and 4% margin of error, 600 respondents were required. Descriptive statistics, the chi-squared test and logistic regression were used to present and analyse the data.
Results: 757 respondents completed the survey. A high prevalence of pain and discomfort relating to the musculoskeletal system were found, particularly in the lower back (71.1% of the respondents) and neck (55.6%). The first contact with respect to therapy for the greatest proportion of respondents was general medicine (35.5%), followed by chiropractic (16%), physiotherapy (13.8%) and massage (10.2%). Physiotherapy was rated highest in its ability to relive the symptoms (18%) followed by chiropractic (15.9%), massage (15.5%) and medicine (14%). In our sample 302 (39.9%) participants used chiropractic before and 75.9% of these consumers were satisfied or highly satisfied with the services provided. No significant differences in income, age and gender were found with regards to those individuals who reported a previous use of chiropractic services. The main reasons for not using chiropractic were: that there was no perceived need for a chiropractic intervention, associated cost, lack of information about chiropractic, lack of referral, being attended by another health professional, and concern about the safety and efficacy of the treatment. Most of the respondents considered that attending to general health and well-being was more important than simply alleviating symptoms and their personal philosophy was a major determinant when it came to the choice of health services.
Conclusions: This study suggests that chiropractic is a thriving profession in Australia. It would appear that there is a need for chiropractic services in Australia, particularly in attending to the highly prevalent realm of musculoskeletal disorders. A considerable number of Australians already utilise chiropractic services. Encouragingly, the vast majority of these consumers are satisfied with the service provided. Chiropractic could play an even greater role within the Australian health if better integrated with the mainstream and allied medicine. A more active approach should be taken by chiropractic practitioners and institutions to improve the general public’s knowledge about chiropractic.
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