Introduction: Some chiropractors seem to have an inflated belief in the powers of spinal manipulation (SMT), for example aiming at preventing future spinal degeneration and health problems, activities that are without supporting evidence. Non-evidenced health beliefs have been shown to be associated with a tendency toward magical thinking. Holding such beliefs about SMT is associated with a limitless scope of practice (LLSoP). Recent studies have shown that “chiropractic conservatism” (ChiroCon) is also associated with such approaches. We wanted to understand ChiroCon and these attitudes toward SMT by exploring three different factors: intolerance to uncertainty, academic achievement, and tendency toward magical thinking and how they relate to ChiroCon and LLSoP.
Method: A cross-sectional survey of 243 chiropractic students from an Australian chiropractic program was conducted in May 2020. Students answered a questionnaire involving a patient case-scenario for LLSoP, levels of ChiroCon, validated questionnaires on (i) Intolerance of uncertainty, (ii) Academic achievement, and (iii) Magical thinking. LLSoP was defined as wanting to treat with SMT a 5-year-old asymptomatic child for future (i) Musculoskeletal (MSK) problems and/or (ii) Non-musculoskeletal diseases. Logistic regression models were used to confirm if there was an association between ChiroCon and LLSoP and to explore associations between LLSoP and (i) Intolerance of uncertainty, (ii) Academic achievement, and (iii) Magical thinking. We repeated the same analyses using ChiroCon as the outcome variable.
Results: We confirmed that chiropractic students in the more extreme ChiroCon group were more likely to want to prevent future spinal disorders in an asymptomatic 5-year-old child as compared to those with lower levels (OR = 3.9, (95%CI 1.97–7.72). This was also the case for the prevention of future diseases in the same child (OR = 6.9, (95%CI 3.11–15.06). Of the three predictor variables, magical belief was positively associated with both ChiroCon and LLSoP.
Conclusion: Not surprisingly, ChiroCon is closely related to LLSoP and both were linked to magical thinking. Therefore, the questionnaire ‘Magical Health Beliefs’ could be a useful instrument to screen future chiropractic students to prevent a mismatch between student and institution. Depending on the outlook of the school, some schools would welcome these students, whereas other institutions would want to avoid them in their education program.
Author keywords: Chiropractic - Chiropractic education - Spinal manipulation - Scope of practice - Magic psychology - Uncertainty - Academic success - Mass screening - Survey
A correction to this article was published on 30 September 2022
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