Southern Spinal Care
Is Chiropractic a Protective Factor Against Health-Related Decline?

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics posed an interesting question: how does chiropractic compare to medical treatments on 1-year changes in self-reported function, health and satisfaction with care measures? It was a representative sample of American Medicare beneficiaries, but it’s a study worth a second look as it examines a common comparison – chiropractic versus medical care.

Some of the results of the study:

  • “The average annual population prevalence in community-dwelling and age-eligible Medicare beneficiaries using chiropractic was 7.4% (range, 6.3%-8.9%). Among persons with spine conditions, the average annual prevalence was 34.5% (range, 32.4%-35.7%)” [1]. This offers up insight into the main draw-card for this group, and perhaps an impetus for future efforts among chiropractic communicators when it comes to non-musculoskeletal impacts of care.
  • Chiropractic users were “relatively healthier than the medical-only group based on presence of disease conditions and having significantly lower proportions of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke; and diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis, although among these last 3 conditions, the prevalence among users of chiropractic increased over time.”
  • Chiropractic users also had “significantly less functional limitation as reflected by fewer ADLs [activities of daily life] and less self-reported difficulty lifting, reaching, stooping, and walking several blocks.”
  • Vision was better and self-reported health higher among those using chiropractic.”
  • “The proportion of chiropractic users worried about their health was significantly lower than those using medical-only care, which could be a reflection of the relative disease burden for each group.”
  • Chiropractic users had proportionately fewer hospitalizations in the year prior to their first interview and were less prevalent in the highest category of office visits (N6 per year) compared with medical-only users.
Admittedly the study did focus on an American sample, and we know that the American health system differs greatly in terms of cost and access to Australian, Canadian or other socialized health-care systems. That said, the challenges faced in similar samples in other countries could be quite comparable.

All in all, it is a poignant and encouraging view of chiropractic care in comparison to medical-only care. While we still have work to do in terms of communicating the non-musculoskeletal aspects of our offering, it is nice to see chiropractic usage in older adults hitting the spot.

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