The clinical management of neck pain of novice and experienced Australian osteopaths: A secondary analysis of a nationally representative sample

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2021 Jan;25:87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2020.11.006. Epub 2020 Nov 12.


Introduction: Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders worldwide. Osteopaths are primary contact health professionals who predominantly manage musculoskeletal complaints. How Australian osteopaths manage neck pain is beginning to emerge in the literature and there may be differences based on clinical experience. This work presents a secondary data analysis of the Australian osteopathy practice-based research network and aims to examine the clinical management characteristics of experienced and novice osteopaths who often treat neck pain.

Methodology: Secondary analysis of a cross-sectional survey of osteopaths registered with the Osteopathy Research and Innovation Network (ORION), an Australian practice-based research network. Demographic, practice and treatment characteristics of osteopaths who 'often' treat neck pain. Data was split into two groups: novice practitioners (up to nine years in clinical practice), and experienced practitioners (10 years or more in clinical practice), and clinical management was compared.

Results: Most (98%) of the 971 osteopaths reported that they treat neck pain often. Of those that treat neck pain often, 58% reported being male. The mean number of patient care hours per week was 28.1 ± 12.1 and the mean number of patient visits per week was 36.7 ± 18.7. There was a statistically significant difference between novice and experienced groups for discussing occupation (p < 0.01; d = 0.26) and stress (p = 0.045; d = 0.13) during their consultations, with a low to medium and low effect size, respectively.

Conclusion: This work demonstrates differences in the management strategies of experienced and novice Australian osteopaths that includes utilisation of a multidisciplinary approach to patient management. The results support the conclusion that there are differences in the clinical management strategies employed by experienced versus novice Australian osteopaths.