Americans’ Views of Prescription Pain Medication and Chiropractic Care

On October 3, 2017, the Palmer College of Chiropractic released a report created with the Gallop survey organization with the above title. The full report, which can be seen on the Palmer College website at this address,, highlighted several facts about how Americans deal with pain, and view chiropractic.

The study was conducted based on a nationally representative Gallup Panel completed by 6,305 adults over the age of 18. Of the total, 5,826 were completed from the web and 479 from US mail. This study was conducted from Feb. 8 through March 13, 2017.

The report noted that 78% of Americans prefer not to address physical pain by taking prescriptions given by their medical doctors. Only 22% of those surveyed say they prefer to take medications for their pain problems. The report also noted that in the past 12 months, 27% of adults have seen a health professional for either neck or back pain. Of those, 54% have suffered with that problem for five years or more.

People who had never been to a chiropractor, or who have a high school diploma or less, along with those over 65 years of age, were more likely to prefer to take prescription medications over alternative approaches. As expected, the report also showed that there was a large difference of opinion between medical professionals and doctors of chiropractic about pain medications. Patients reported that 47% of their medical doctors expressed a positive opinion about taking pain medications, while 19% of patients said their chiropractors expressed a negative opinion about pain medications. However, 64% of chiropractic patients said their chiropractor expressed no opinion one way or the other about pain medications.

When it comes to the issue of safety, 31% of Americans said that chiropractic care was safer than prescription pain medication for significant neck or back pain. Approximately 25% of all adults said that both chiropractic and prescription medications were equally safe, while 26% said they did not know which was safer.

When it came to what opinions health professionals expressed about each other to their patients, the responses were a bit surprising. When patients were asked if their chiropractor had ever expressed an opinion about medical care, 51% of the patients said their chiropractor expressed a positive opinion while only 3% expressed a negative opinion. Conversely, when patients of medical doctors were asked if their doctor ever expressed an opinion about chiropractors, only 19% said their MD rendered a positive opinion while 7% gave their patients a negative opinion.

When specifically looking at the public perception of chiropractic related to certain health issues, the report stated that 81% of patients thought that chiropractic is either very effective or somewhat effective for neck and back pain, while only 4% thought it would not help at all. When it comes to headaches, 57% thought chiropractic could help a great deal or help some. However, 34% did not know if chiropractic could help headaches, and 9% thought it could not help.

Compared to previous studies, this study showed that chiropractic care is being utilized by a growing percentage of the American population. Over the past 12 months, 18% of the population said they had gone to a chiropractor. Of those that had seen a chiropractor, 76% had seen a chiropractor in the past 6 months, and 32% within the last month.

In the conclusion, the study noted that more people would go to a chiropractor if they knew more about it. They stated, “…many Americans are largely unfamiliar with chiropractic care, which is likely a barrier for many considering chiropractic care. Half of adults in the U.S. (50%) do not know the philosophies that guide chiropractic care, and nearly half of adults who have not seen a chiropractor for care in the last 12 months (47%) say they would be more likely to go to a chiropractor for care if they knew more about what chiropractors do.”

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