An investigation into the patient management protocols of selected cervical spine conditions by chiropractors in KwaZulu-Natal
Lombard, Barend Jacobus
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Background: Neck pain is an extremely common condition and the treatment of neck pain forms an integral part of chiropractic practice. The optimal treatment of neck pain is provided when practitioners incorporate available evidence, experience, and knowledge regarding the clinical presentation of the patient into their treatment regimes. Current evidence suggests that a combination of manual therapy, specifically manipulation and/or mobilization, and rehabilitation may offer the optimum treatment for mechanical neck pain. However, numerous factors other than available evidence, experience and clinical presentation may influence treatment choices made by practitioners. Through the assessment of practice patterns, one may asses if the optimal treatment for a neck pain is being provided by practitioners and assess if factors specific to a practitioner may influence the treatment of neck pain. Objectives: The aim of this study is to determine the chiropractic treatment and management of mechanical neck pain, to compare this to evidence based recommendations for the conservative treatment of mechanical neck pain and to assess if factors other than the available evidence may influence the treatment of mechanical neck pain. Method: A quantitative, cross-sectional descriptive survey compiled using available literature and validated by means of a focus group and pilot testing, was administered to chiropractors practicing in KwaZulu-Natal. Upon completion of the questionnaire, the data was coded into an Excel spread sheet and imported into IBM SPSS version 20 for statistical analysis. This research protocol was approved by the Durban University of Technology Institutional Research Ethics Committee (REC 82/13) and the study took place from March to July 2014. Results: Ninety-six practitioners responded to the study which is a response rate of greater than 70%. Practitioners favoured the use of spinal manipulation, auxiliary therapeutic techniques (specifically those which were manual in nature), rehabilitation, and numerous forms of education. Specific variations in treatment pattern existed when comparing various patient presentations indicating that practitioner based factors impacted on treatment choices made by practitioners. The most significant findings included the increased utilisation of auxiliary therapeutic techniques by female practitioners, the increased utilisation of traction by practitioners identifying with the straight philosophy of chiropractic. Other significant findings included the increased utilisation of cervical collars by practitioners of increased age and experience and the increased utilisation of auxiliary therapeutic techniques by practitioners who did not attend health related conferences at least once every second year or did not attend short courses or subscribe to journals or magazines since qualification. Conclusions: This study indicates that treatment for mechanical neck pain offered by chiropractors in KwaZulu-Natal is in line with current evidence based recommendations for the treatment of mechanical neck pain, with practitioners commonly using modalities which were recommended, whilst rarely using modalities which were not recommended. The use of rehabilitation was, however, slightly lower than expected. Patient presentation and practitioner based factors were found to influence the treatment of mechanical neck pain; however, as a whole these variations were small with the majority of practitioners favouring the use of modalities which were recommended within the literature. Future studies should address the gap in the literature regarding the conservative treatment of cervical radiculopathy.