Why Do Seniors Seek Chiropractic?

The Journal of Chiropractic Education published the results of a study on August 1, 2018, that looked at the reasons that people over the age of 65 most sought out chiropractic care. The study was conducted at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic (NZCC) intern training center. The authors of this study begin by defining the aging process. “Aging is a nonreversible fact of life that results in an eventual decline in the total capacity of various organs and systems, decreasing the body’s ability to adapt to the stresses of the environment.” They note that the world’s population is getting older with 8.5% of the population being older than age 65, which translated out to 617 million senior citizens world-wide. It is expected that by the year 2050, there will be 1.6 billion people over 65 years of age representing 17% of the total world population. An increase in the likelihood of injury as well as additional health challenges for an aging population means a large increase strain on the world-wide healthcare systems. Less expensive alternatives such as chiropractic could represent an area that could help with the issues of an aging population. In this study, files were reviewed for patients at the NZCC intern training center who were over the age of 65 when they first started chiropractic care at that facility. Information from the file must have included the patient’s chief complaint for which they started chiropractic care. From a total of 3513 active patients at the clinic at the time of the study, 100 patients (2.8%) met the criteria and were eligible for inclusion into this study. The youngest patient in the study was 65-years-old and the oldest was 88-years-old when they started chiropractic. The average age of patients in the study as 69.5 years. There were slightly more women than men in this study. According to the study, there were eight categories of chief complaints for which these patients sought chiropractic care. The most common reason that seniors looked to chiropractic in this study was lower back pain, with 45% listing this as their chief complaint. Of these patients, 28% sought chiropractic on their own and 17% sought chiropractic based upon a referral. Neck pain was the second most common reason for seniors to seek chiropractic with 21% listing this as their chief complaint. Of these, only 4% did so because of a referral while the rest sought chiropractic on their own. The third most common reason that seniors sought chiropractic care, representing 14% of the study participants, was for wellness care. These patients had no specific chief complaint or symptom that drew them to seek out chiropractic. It can be assumed that these patients were looking for preventative care and the benefits inherent in the drugless approach of chiropractic. Other chief problems that brought seniors to chiropractic in this study included lower extremity pain (5%), upper extremity pain (3%), balance (4%), hip pain (3%), and a variety of other issues such as headaches, groin pain, and visceral conditions each representing 1% of those seeking chiropractic. Portions of the finding in this study were similar to other studies performed in both New Zealand and in the United States and Mexico. The one main differences between the studies conducted in New Zealand, and the ones in the U.S. and Mexico was that the percentage of seniors seeking chiropractic for wellness purposes in New Zealand was much higher than studies conducted in the U.S. or Mexico. With this one difference being noted between this study and those outside New Zealand, the study authors were able to conclude that, “In general, older patient characteristics and their chief complaints at our clinic appear similar to those of other chiropractic colleges studying all age groups.”

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