Background: Little is known about the preferred treatment strategies of chiropractors in managing low back pain patients with prior lumbar fusions. There are several case reports which describe chiropractic care following surgical intervention, but there are no cohort or experimental studies published. Therefore, we sought to examine self-reported management approaches and practice patterns related to the management of patients with prior surgical lumbar fusion, among United States Veterans Affairs (VA) chiropractors.
Methods: An electronic survey was administered nationwide to all chiropractors providing clinical care within VA. Questions were informed by a prior survey and piloted on a sample of chiropractors external to VA. Statistical analysis included respondent background information, and quantitative analysis of chiropractic referral patterns and practices. This survey collect information on 1) provider demographics, 2) VA referral patterns, and 3) attitudes, beliefs, practices and interventions utilized by VA chiropractors to manage patients with a history of surgical lumbar fusion.
Results: The survey response rate was 46.3% (62/134). The respondents were broadly representative of VA chiropractic providers in age, gender, and years in practice. The majority of respondents (90.3%) reported seeing at least 1 post-fusion patient in the past month. The most common therapeutic approaches utilized by VA chiropractors were healthy lifestyle advice (94.9%), pain education (89.8%), exercise prescription (88.1%), stretching (66.1%) and soft tissue manual therapies (62.7%). A relatively smaller proportion described always or frequently incorporating lumbar (16.9%), thoracic (57.6%) or pelvic (39.0%) spinal manipulation.
Conclusion: This survey provides preliminary data on VA chiropractic services in the management of patients with prior lumbar fusion. These patients are often seen by VA chiropractors, and our findings support the need for further study to advance understanding of interventions utilized by chiropractors in this patient population.
Author keywords: Chiropractic — Manipulation — Postoperative periods — Spinal fusion — Surgical procedures — Operative
Author affiliations: CJD, PS, EMB: Rehabilitation Care Services, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Tacoma, Washington, United States; JAG: Department of Neurosurgery, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States; PS: Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Washinton, United States; PS: Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States; AJL: Chiropractic Service Chief, VA Connecticut Health Care System, West Haven, Connecticut, United States
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