Background: Chiropractors are frequent providers of care for patients with lower back pain. Biopsychosocial approaches to managing patients are regarded as best practice and are gaining wider acceptance. Recent evidence suggests that practitioners’ attitudes and beliefs may also have an important effect on patients’ recovery from back pain. Past studies have pooled manual therapists from differing professions. Dissonant findings have been hypothesised as being a result of the chiropractic subpopulation within multi-practitioner participant pools who are hypothesised to focus on biomedical aspects of treatment and minimize biopsychosocial dimensions.
The aim of this study is to determine whether a study population of only chiropractors would demonstrate similar attitudes and beliefs to other manual therapists’ biopsychosocial or biomedical approach to the management of their patients.
Methods: A survey of chiropractors in Victoria Australia in September 2010 was undertaken utilising the Pain Attitude and Belief Scale (PABS.PT), a tool which has been developed to determine the orientation (biopsychosocial or biomedical approach) of practitioners to the management of people with low back pain. The survey also obtained demographic data from respondents to determine whether variables such as education, gender or practice related factors influenced their orientation.
Results: The overall response rate was 29% (n = 218). The majority of the sample was male (68%), with a mean age of 44 years. The 6 point Likert scale scores were 34.5 (6.3) for the biomedical factor scale and 31.4 (4.1) for the biopsychosocial scale. Internal consistency of the psychosocial subscale was poor. None of the demographic variables were found to influence the biomedical or psychosocial scales.
Conclusions: Chiropractors in the state of Victoria were found to have similar biomedical and psychosocial orientations in their attitudes and beliefs when compared to other manual therapists’ levels of previous studies from differing cultural and educational backgrounds. This study was unable to replicate any of the relationships from past studies with any of the demographic variables. The psychosocial scale internal consistency may be a significant factor in this non-finding. Future research should address the identification of more robust items of the biopsychosocial attitudes of Victorian chiropractors toward treating lower back pain.
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