Studies Examine Public Perception of Spinal Screenings and the Perceived Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care Received From Patients Through Screenings

Representing chiropractic care in a positive, understandable manner to the public, and indeed marketing chiropractic care to people with no exposure to it, has long been a challenge. In today’s climate, rich with keyboard warriors and poorly-informed media hype, it is likely to stay complicated. It is therefore encouraging to know that new research shows that we have a very effective weapon at our disposal though: the humble spinal screening.

 A pair of studies recently undertaken by Dr David Russell and faculty of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic and Life Chiropractic College West have taken aim at the effectiveness of this important marketing tool. The first of the studies looked at the public perception of chiropractic following exposure at public spinal screenings.1 A second looked at perceived effectiveness of chiropractic care in people who started care as a result of referral from public spinal screening events in Auckland, NZ.2

The findings of both studies proved enlightening, with surprisingly low rates of negative perceptions following public spinal screenings or chiropractic care following these events. The first study, which placed public perceptions under the scrutiny, utilised surveys to gauge public perceptions of chiropractic care.1

A total of 345 interviews were completed at 3 different screening events, and participation in the survey was optional. The screening event focused on educating the public about the benefits of chiropractic care and superficial assessment of the “chiropractic subluxation”. Due to the diverse nature of the screening events, a wide range of demographics were able to be included in the sample group. Some of the key findings included:

Of the respondents who were screened and made a further appointment

  • 60% were male, 40% were female and 90% were screened at communal sports events.
  • 3% of these changed their view of chiropractic towards the positive.
  • Some of their reasons for booking appointments included increasing health and wellbeing, reducing symptoms, correcting a structural concern or satisfying curiosity.

Of the respondents who were screened and did not make a further appointment

  • 51% were males and 37% were females
  • 1% of respondents changed their view of chiropractic towards the positive.
  • Only 2.6% changed their opinion for the negative. In this case, that was just 2 people.
  • Two-thirds of the people in this group indicated that they planned to make an appointment soon.

“What was interesting about the results from this study is that members of the public generally expressed an already positive perception of chiropractic, this was reported by 54.9% of those surveyed and that is great for chiropractic. What is exciting, particularly for those who enjoy doing screenings, was that exposure to a chiropractic spinal screening actually tended to have a more positive influence on public perception of chiropractic. In fact, 44.3% of those surveyed changed there perception of chiropractic for the positive as a result of the screening (only 1.7% changed for the negative), this is contrary to the claims that screenings bring the profession into disrepute that are made by some policy makers,” said Dave Russell, one of the study’s lead investigators.

The largest group of respondents were not screened, however, only 1.4% reported their view of chiropractic changing towards the negative, and this was after only superficial exposure to the screening.

It should be noted that the subject of this study is a sensitive one, with spinal screenings a topic for concern among some chiropractors and chiropractic legislators. There are those who believe that such activities could harm the publics’ view of chiropractic.  This has led to some regulatory bodies to issue guidelines to govern the practice of public spinal screenings.1

Despite the lack of evidence surrounding direct marketing activities in healthcare related fields, the authors cite examples of public place activities that have increased participation:

“The current study is closely aligned with findings for immunization mall programs, where this style of marketing showed very positive public acceptance and largely increased uptake in receiving a healthcare intervention, in this case immunization. The immunization study differed from the current study in that treatment was given at the mall so was not a screening as such”.1

The second paper related to spinal screenings looked at the effectiveness of chiropractic care in 94 people aged between 19 and 65 who started care as a result of referral from spinal screening events.2 Lead Researcher Dr Russell told Spinal Research:

“Prior to beginning chiropractic care these people had not intended to visit a chiropractor. However, what the results show is a remarkable example of the wide-ranging benefits chiropractic may have to offer others who may be otherwise none the wiser.

When surveyed only 65% participants indicated that they thought chiropractic care would offer any benefit to their primary complaint(s), which were primarily back and neck pain related. However, after a period of chiropractic care, which was a minimum of 4 weeks, the survey results indicated that in fact 94% of the participants did find chiropractic care effective for their primary complaint(s).

What is more exciting is 90% of these people also reported additional benefits beyond their primary complaint(s). Reported benefits included improvement in digestion; more energy; less stress; improved toilets habits; improved sleep; improved sense of wellbeing; improved respiration, improved strength, improvements in exercise, improvement in state of mind and increased physical stamina.”

Of the study’s 94 participants, only 2 reported no perceived benefit, and 4 felt chiropractic care didn’t help with their primary complaint but reported positively about unrelated benefits. These are remarkably positive responses that show chiropractic care can indeed surpass preconceived ideas.

The full studies are currently available at the Chiropractic Journal of Australia and the Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, and are certainly a good read for anyone looking to expand their chiropractic impact. Congratulations to Dr David Russell and the other authors for taking on such a sensitive but necessary topic in chiropractic.


[1] Russell D, Glucina T, Cade A, Sherson M, Alcantara J. Patient perceived effectiveness of a course of chiropractic care in a teaching clinic following initial exposure to chiropractic through a public spinal screening. Chiropractic Journal of Australia 2017; 45(1): 1-15

[2] Russell D, Glucina T, Sherson M, Bredin M (2017), “A survey of the public perception of chiropractic after exposure to chiropractic public place marketing events in New Zealand,” Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, DOI:

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