Background: This paper reports the quantitative outcomes of a mixed-methods pilot study of the characteristics and demographics of chiropractic practices and patients in Western Australia.
Methods: This was a mixed-methods data transformation model (qualitative to quantitative) pilot study. A non-random sample of chiropractic practices across Western Australia was recruited and data collected anonymously from consecutive new patients using an online platform. Data covered practice and patient demographics and characteristics, alongside quality of life measures. A descriptive quantitative analysis characterised the sample, and the patient population was stratified by main reason for presentation to compare characteristics according to the presence of secondary complaints. Odds ratios were calculated to estimate the odds of a secondary complaint for various combinations of main complaints, from univariate logistic regression models.
Results: Of the 539 registered practitioners in WA in July 2014, 33 agreed to participate, from 20 different practices. Ten participating practices provided data on 325 adult new patients. The recruited practices (metropolitan n = 8, regional n = 2) had a positive response rate of 79.7 % (n = 301 metropolitan and n = 24 regional patients), mean age 36.3 years (range 18–74) (53.2 % female). Spinal problems were reported as the main reason for consultation by 67 % and as secondary reasons by 77.2 % of patients. People presented primarily for health maintenance or a general health check in 11.4 %, and as a secondary reason 14.8 %. There were 30 % of people below societal norms for the SF-12 Physical Component Score (mean 47.19, 95 % CI; 46.27–48.19) and 86 % for the Mental Component Score (mean 36.64, 95 % CI; 35.93-37.65), Pain Impact Questionnaire mean scores were 54.60 (95 % CI; 53.32–55.88).
Conclusions: Patients presented to chiropractors in Western Australia with a fairly wide range of conditions, but primarily spinal and musculoskeletal-related problems. A significant proportion of patients had associated, or found to be at risk of, depression. Consequently, there are responsibilities and opportunities for chiropractors with respect to providing care services that include health promotion and well-being education related to musculoskeletal/spinal and mental health. This pilot study supports the feasibility of a future confirmatory study where the potential role of chiropractors in spinal/musculoskeletal health management may be explored.
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