Management of people with low back pain: a survey of opinions and beliefs of Dutch and Belgian chiropractors

Lobke P. de la Ruelle*, Annemarie de Zoete, Michiel R. de Boer, Maurits W. van Tulder, Raymond Ostelo, Sidney M. Rubinstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Chiropractors commonly provide care to people with low-back pain (LBP). The aim of this survey was to determine the opinions and beliefs of chiropractors regarding the support and management of LBP. We also investigated whether their management is in accordance with the three most commonly recommended approaches to LBP based upon international guidelines (i.e. advice regarding return-to-work, limit bedrest, and stay active). Methods: A web-based survey was sent out in 2013 to collect data from registered Dutch and Belgian chiropractors. In addition to providing a description of their sociodemographic and practice characteristics, chiropractors were asked to complete six patient vignettes representing people with LBP who typically present to a chiropractor. The respondents indicated which intervention(s) they would recommend or undertake. Based upon these vignettes, we were able to determine whether their management approach adhered to clinical guidelines. Generalized mixed models were used to explore guidelines adherence and their relationship to chiropractors’ characteristics. Results: In total, 60% (n = 203/340) of the chiropractors who were invited, chose to participate. Chiropractors reported applying a chiropractic adjustment in 90% of all vignettes, while the advice to exercise varied from one-third in the chronic cases to approximately half of those with acute LBP. More than 75% of the chiropractors would initially treat LBP 1–2 times a week. More than 90% of the chiropractors advised against bedrest. Overall, self-reported adherence to clinical guidelines for all six vignettes was [64.5% (CI 58.7–70.0)]. Adherence in the chronic vignettes [73.4% (CI 66.7–79.2)] was better than in the acute vignettes [55.9% (CI 50.5–61.1)]. Importantly, regarding recommended approaches to LBP, chiropractors more consistently followed guidelines regarding advice to limit bedrest [98.5% (CI 97.3–99.1)] than advice to stay active [77.5% (CI 72.3–81.9)] or return-to-work [59.4% (CI 55.2–63.4)]. Finally, Dutch chiropractors were more likely to adhere to the guidelines than Belgian chiropractors. Conclusions: Chiropractic adjustments were the most common self-reported treatment modalities supplemented by exercise in the management of LBP patients. Two-thirds of the chiropractors reported adhering to the guidelines regarding management and advice for LBP patients. Practitioners should improve guideline adherence, particularly for acute LBP cases, and when advising on return-to-work.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalChiropractic and Manual Therapies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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