Background: It is known that not all chiropractors follow mainstream guidelines on the use of diagnostic ionising radiation. Various reasons have been discussed in the literature, including using radiography to screen for congenital anomalies, to perform postural analysis, to search for contraindications to spinal manipulation, and to document chiropractic subluxations, i.e., tiny anatomical displacements of vertebrae thought to affect nerves and health. The visualisation of subluxations was the reason chiropractic first adopted the x-ray in 1910. There has never been a study of the influence of this historical paradigm of radiography on the practices of chiropractic radiologists (DACBRs or Diplomates of the American Chiropractic College of Radiology).
Methods: A survey was administered with a modified Dillman method using SurveyMonkey and supplemented by hard copies distributed at a professional conference. The target population was all active DACBRs. There were 34 items, which consisted of multiple choice and open-ended interrogatives on all three areas in which chiropractic radiologists work: education, clinical practice, and radiology practice.
Results: The response rate was 38% (73 of 190 DACBRs). Respondents reported that the historical paradigm of radiography was found in all areas of practice, but not as a major aspect. The majority of respondents did not condone that historical paradigm, but many tolerated it, particularly from referring chiropractors. Radiographic subluxation analysis was reportedly perpetuated by private clinical practitioners as well as technique instructors and supervising clinicians in the teaching institutions.
Conclusions: Within the chiropractic profession, there is a continuing belief in radiographically visible subluxations as a cause of suboptimal health. This situation is sustained in part due to the reticence of other chiropractors to report these practices to licensing and registration boards. Investigation into other structures supporting a vitalistic belief system over science in chiropractic is recommended. In addition, it may be useful to explore remunerative systems that move beyond the inherently conflicted fee-for-service model.
Author affiliations: Murdoch University. School of Arts; Murdoch University. School of Health Professions
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