Public Perceptions of Doctors of Chiropractic: Results of a National Survey and Examination of Variation According to Respondents' Likelihood to Use Chiropractic, Experience With Chiropractic, and Chiropractic Supply in Local Health Care Markets

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2015 Oct;38(8):533-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine whether general perceptions of doctors of chiropractic (DCs) varied according to likeliness to use chiropractic care, whether particular demographic characteristics were associated with chiropractic care use, and whether perception of DCs varied according to the per-capita supply of DCs in local health care markets.

Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of results from a 26-item nationally representative survey of 5422 members of The Gallup Panel that was conducted in the spring of 2015 (response rate, 29%) that sought to elicit the perceptions and use of DCs by US adults. We compared survey responses across: (1) respondents who had different likelihoods to use DCs for treatment of neck or back pain and (2) respondents who had different experiences using DCs. We linked respondents' zip codes to hospital referral regions for which we had the per-capita supply of DCs. Using the χ(2) test, we examined relationships between likeliness to use a DC, experience using a DC, respondent demographic variables, perceptions of DCs, and the per-capita supply of DCs in the local health care market.

Results: Most (61.4%) respondents believed that chiropractic care was effective at treating neck and back pain, 52.6% thought DCs were trustworthy, and 24.2% thought chiropractic care was dangerous; however, as respondents' likelihood to use a DC increased, perceptions of effectiveness and trustworthiness increased, and perceptions of danger decreased. Of all 5422 survey respondents, 744 or 13.7% indicated that they had seen a DC within the last 12 months. As one moved from distant to more recent experience using a DC, respondents were more likely to be female, married, white, and employed; those who had a distant history of using a DC were older and more likely to be retired than the other groups. A higher per-capita supply of DCs was associated with higher utilization rates and showed a more favorable regard for DCs.

Conclusions: US adults often use chiropractic care, generally regard DCs favorably, and largely perceive that chiropractic care is safe. Where there is a higher per-capita supply of DCs in the local health care market, utilization and positive perceptions of chiropractic are higher.

Keywords: Chiropractic; Health Services Research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chiropractic*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Sector
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Chiropractic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult