An advanced publication of a research survey released by Research Square on February 18, 2021, shows that Canadian family physicians have an overall positive view of chiropractic and often refer patients to chiropractors for care. The study was conducted by researchers at McMaster University, a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
The study begins by noting that one in eight Canadians report seeing a chiropractor in the past year. Most of those people seek chiropractic care for help with lower back and neck pain. This high rate of chiropractic usage is in spite of the fact that the medical and chiropractic professions have not always had the best professional relations. The study reports that, as late as 1972, the Canadian Medical Association reaffirmed their policy that medical physicians may not make referrals to chiropractors. This was similar to the American Medical Association’s 1983 policy which held that it was unethical for medical doctors to associate with chiropractors.
In this study, a 50-item survey was randomly sent to 2,429 Canadian family physicians which included a “chiropractic attitude questionnaire” (CAQ). Of that total number of doctors, 162 responded, representing 7% of those that the survey was sent to. This survey was similar to one conducted in Canada in 2010.
Since this study was designed to gather the general impressions Canadian family physicians had about chiropractic, the researchers also looked at how familiar the medical doctors were with chiropractic. When the medical physicians were asked where they get their information on chiropractic, the study showed that 32% relied on patient feedback, 41% had a relationship with a chiropractor, 41% stated that they used scientific journals, 30% had personally received chiropractic care, 18% got their chiropractic information from the media, 13% said they learned about chiropractic in medical school.
The study pointed out that many patients who see both a chiropractor and a medical physician do not share with their MD that they are also seeing a chiropractor. The results of the study showed that 72% of Canadian family physicians have referred patients for chiropractic care. According to the study, most referrals are because of a patient request or a lack of response to medical care.
The results of the survey showed that 48% of the MDs who responded to the survey held a positive impression of chiropractic, with 27% having some level of uncertainty and 25% holding negative views. The survey also revealed that only 13% of the MDs worked in a multidisciplinary environment where chiropractic care was offered alongside the medical care. Similarly, 15% felt that chiropractic care should be included in multidisciplinary healthcare centers, and 25% said that chiropractic should be available in hospitals.
When asked if the cost of paying for chiropractic care should be covered by government programs, 35% agreed that chiropractic coverage should be included, while 33% were unsure, and 27% did not think chiropractic should be covered.
The overall conclusion of the study is that Canadian family physicians have an overall favorable impression of the chiropractic profession. In their discussion the authors wrote, “Our survey of Canadian family physicians found that most report favorable perceptions of chiropractic, including the belief that chiropractic care is effective for some musculoskeletal complaints, provides a useful complement to conventional medicine, and can reduce family practitioner workload.”