Background: The use of chiropractic services is widespread, however, little is known about the characteristics of people who seek chiropractic care in Australia. This study compared the characteristics of users and non-users of chiropractic services from a cohort of patients sourced from general medical practice in Victoria, Australia.
Methods: This is a secondary analysis of baseline screening data from a prospective adult cohort study beginning in 2005. Thirty randomly selected Australian general medical practices mailed out surveys to 17,780 of their patients. Differences were examined between chiropractic users and others, and between chiropractic users who reported a back problem to those who did not.
Results: Of 7,519 respondents, 15% indicated they had visited a chiropractor in the last 12 months. Chiropractic users were more likely to have their GP located in a rural location and to be born in Australia; they were less likely to be in the older age group (55-76), to be unemployed or to have a pension/benefit as their main source of income. Chiropractic users were more likely to: have a back problem; use complementary or alternative medication; visit another type of complementary health practitioner or a physiotherapist. They were less likely to take medication for certain health problems (e.g. for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or asthma). No important differences were seen between chiropractic users and non-users for other health problems. People who visited a chiropractor and reported a back problem were more likely to: be a current smoker; have a number of other chronic conditions, including arthritis, hypertension, chronic sinusitis, asthma, dermatitis, depression and anxiety; report taking medications, including antidepressants, analgesics (painkillers and arthritis medication) and complementary or alternative medications.
Conclusions: This large cross-sectional study of general medical practice attendees suggests that chiropractors are the most commonly consulted complementary health profession. Chiropractors should ensure they are aware of their patients' health conditions other than musculoskeletal problems and should ensure they are appropriately managed.