Knowledge and pre-thoracic spinal thrust manipulation examination: a survey of current practice in the UK

J Man Manip Ther. 2018 Dec;26(5):301-309. doi: 10.1080/10669817.2018.1507269. Epub 2018 Sep 5.


Objectives: The perceived relative safety of thoracic thrust joint manipulation (TTJM) has contributed to evidence supporting its use. Yet, TTJM is not without risk, where transient side effects (SE) and severe adverse events (AE) have been documented. With evidence supporting the importance of prethrust examination in reducing AE in other spinal regions this study investigated TTJM knowledge and pre-TTJM examination. Method: An e-survey, informed by existing evidence and expertise was designed and piloted. Eligibility criteria: UK-trained physiotherapists who use TTJM. Recruitment via professional networks and social media from December 2016 to February 2017. Data analysis included descriptive analyses (means, standard deviation and frequencies/central tendencies), and content analysis (themes and frequencies) for free text data. Results: From 306 responses, the sample comprised 146 (53%) males, mean (SD) age 36.37(8.68) years, with 12.88(8.67) years in practice, 11.07(8.14) years specialization, working in National Health Service/private practice (81%) and performing 0-5 TTJM/week (86%).

Examination: 40% (n = 83) utilized pre-TTJM examination with 45% (n = 139) adapting the examination for different regions. Technique selection and effect: preferred technique was prone rotational TTJM (67%). Perception of the primary underlying effect was neurophysiological (54%), biomechanical (45%) or placebo (1%). Knowledge: Levels of agreement were found for contraindications (85%), precautions (75%), and red flags (86%) with more variability for risks including AE and SE (61%).

Discussion: UK physiotherapists demonstrated good knowledge and agreement of contraindications, precautions, and red flags to TTJM. With <50% respondents utilizing pre-TTJM examination, variable knowledge of TTJM risks, and therapeutic effects of TTJM further research is required.

Keywords: Examination; clinical knowledge; current practice; survey; thoracic; thrust manipulation.

Grant support

The authors would like to thank Arthritis Research Council and Musculoskeletal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists for funding to support completion of this project.