A survey of UK manual therapists' practice of and attitudes towards manipulation and its complications

Physiother Res Int. 1998;3(3):206-27. doi: 10.1002/pri.141.


Background and purpose: Little is known about the practice of manipulation by UK physiotherapists. This study was conducted to discover current practice of, and attitudes towards, manipulation among UK manipulative therapists.

Methods: A postal questionnaire was sent to 300 UK manipulative therapists who were members of two professional associations representing differing approaches to manual therapy: the Society of Orthopaedic Medicine (SOM) and the Manipulation Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (MACP).

Results: A 50% response rate was achieved and 129 respondents identified themselves as 'users' of manipulation. Anxiety about possible complications was a prominent reason adduced by 'non-users' and 'partial users' for their avoidance of manipulative procedures. The thoracic spine was the region most often manipulated, followed by the lumbar spine. Nineteen per cent of users had encountered complications from manipulation, which were most common in the cervical region and were predominantly non-serious. The majority of SOM members and a minority of MACP members used generalized cervical rotary manipulations--thought by some to be potentially dangerous. Attitudes to manipulation were generally positive, although overall respondents were uncertain as to whether its benefits outweighed its risks. Members of the SOM emerged as more frequent users of manipulation and as less conservative in their attitudes to certain aspects of manipulation.

Conclusions: Allowing for possible under-reporting or other response biases, spinal manipulation emerged as a relatively safe and widely practised technique among this sample.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Spinal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom