A study published in The Medical Journal of Australia in November 2013 discusses chiropractic clinical practices, patient demographics, patients’ reasons for seeking care, the health problems the chiropractors found, as well as the chiropractic care delivered. The study reported that during 2005, 16 percent of Australians, over 3 million people, consulted a chiropractor at least once at an out-of-pocket cost of $905 million.
The information in this study was collected on 4464 chiropractor–patient encounters from 52 chiropractors between December 11, 2010, and September 28, 2012. The authors note that there are 4400 registered practicing chiropractors in Australia, making chiropractic the eighth largest registered health profession in that nation.
The results of the study can be useful for chiropractic education, health care policy, and workforce development. The information can also be compared to studies conducted on the same subject in the United States. According to the Australian study, “Despite the large number of people who receive chiropractic care, very little is known about why people seek this care and what care chiropractors provide.”
Musculoskeletal issues produced the most reasons for people seeking chiropractic care at 60 percent. However, wellness care, chiropractic maintenance, and check-ups rated at 39 percent of the reasons people sought chiropractic services. The study authors noted, “Chiropractic wellness care is considered by an indeterminate proportion of the profession as an integral part of chiropractic practice, with the belief that regular chiropractic care may have value in maintaining and promoting health, as well as preventing disease.”
Patient demographics identified most patients being in the age range of 25-64 years (71 percent), and 1 percent of the patients being infants aged 12 months or less. Other children, 15 years of age and younger, rated at 9 percent, and adults 65 and older rated at 13 percent. Patients were most often referred to the chiropractor by other patients, with this percentage measuring 52 percent.
In conclusion, the study authors state, “In workforce development, education can be aligned with health conditions commonly managed by chiropractors. Health care policy can be guided to ensure that provision of services is directed to areas of greatest need. Future research relevant to the chiropractic profession can be guided to ensure it is directed towards the most common presentations, so it can potentially help the most people.”