Background: Musculoskeletal conditions are the primary reason older adults seek general medical care, resulting in older adults as the highest consumers of health care services. While there is high use of chiropractic care by older adults, there is no recent, specific data on why older adults seek chiropractic care and how chiropractors manage conditions. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to describe the demographic characteristics of older adults seeking chiropractic care, and to report problems diagnosed by chiropractors and the treatment provided to older adults who seek chiropractic care.
Methods: A secondary data analysis from two, large cross-sectional observational studies conducted in Australia (COAST) and Canada (O-COAST). Patient encounter and diagnoses were classified using the International Classification of Primary Care, 2nd edition (ICPC-2), using the Australian ICPC-2 PLUS general practice terminology and the ICPC-2 PLUS Chiro terminology. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize chiropractor, patient and encounter characteristics. Encounter and patient characteristics were compared between younger (< 65 years old) and older (≥65 years old) adults using χ2 tests or t-tests, accounting for the clustering of patients and encounters within chiropractors.
Results: A total of 6781 chiropractor-adult patient encounters were recorded. Of these, 1067 encounters were for persons aged > 65 years (16%), from 897 unique older patients. The most common diagnosis within older adult encounters was a back problem (56%), followed by neck problems (10%). Soft tissue techniques were most frequently used for older patients (85 in every 100 encounters) and in 29 of every 100 encounters, chiropractors recommended exercise to older patients as a part of their treatment.
Conclusions: From 6781 chiropractor-adult patient encounters across two countries, one in seven adult chiropractic patients were > 65 years. Of these, nearly 60% presented with a back problem, with neck pain and lower limb problems the next most common presentation to chiropractors. Musculoskeletal conditions have a significant burden in terms of disability in older adults and are the most commonly treated conditions in chiropractic practice. Future research should explore the clinical course of back pain in older patients seeking chiropractic care and compare the provision of care to older adults across healthcare professions.
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- Back pain
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Health services
- Observational study