Chiropractic conservatism among chiropractic students in Denmark: prevalence and consequences

Chiropr Man Therap. 2020 Dec 4;28(1):64. doi: 10.1186/s12998-020-00352-3.


Background: The chiropractic profession is split between those practicing evidence-based and those whose practice is honed by vitalism. The latter has been coined 'chiropractic conservatism'. In Denmark, the chiropractic education program is university-based in close collaboration with a medical faculty. We wanted to investigate if such conservative attitudes were present in this environment. Our objectives were to i) determine the level of chiropractic conservatism, ii) investigate if this was linked to academic year of study, iii) determine the level of clinical appropriateness, and iv) to investigate if this was affected by the level of conservatism among students in a chiropractic program, where the students are taught alongside medical students at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 146 (response-rate 76%) 3rd to 5th year pre-graduate students and 1st year postgraduate clinical interns from the chiropractic degree course at the University of Southern Denmark was conducted during autumn of 2019. The students' levels of conservatism were dichotomized into appropriate/inappropriate, summed up, and used in a linear regression model to determine the association with academic year of study. Thereafter, the conservatism score was categorized into four groups (from low -1- to high -4-). Conservatism groups were cross-tabulated with the ability to answer appropriately on nine cases concerning i) contra-indications, ii) non-indications, and iii) indications for spinal manipulation and analyzed using logistic regression.

Results: Generally, the Danish chiropractic students had low conservatism scores, decreasing with increasing academic year of study. Seventy percent of the students were placed in the two lowest conservative groups. The level of conservatism (categories 1-3) was moderately (but not statistically significantly) associated with an inability to recognize non-indications to treatment. Three outliers (category 4), however, revealed a highly inappropriate handling of the clinical cases.

Conclusions: Chiropractic students enrolled at a university-based course closely integrated with a medical teaching environment are not immune to chiropractic conservatism. However, the course appears to attenuate it and limit its effect on clinical decision-making compared to other educational institutions.

Keywords: Chiropractic conservatism; Chiropractic students; Contra-indication; Education; Indication; Non-indication; Spinal adjustments; Spinal subluxation; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chiropractic / education*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Clinical Decision-Making*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Students, Health Occupations*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult