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Gallup-Palmer report: 14% of U.S. adults saw a chiropractor last year

Gallup-Palmer report: 14% of U.S. adults saw a chiropractor last year

We still have work to do!
Fall/Winter 2015

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Changing Perceptions, Challenging a Profession

We have work to do. The Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Inaugural Report: Americans’ Perceptions of Chiropractic was released in September. Now what? How can the chiropractic profession leverage this information to increase the public’s use of chiropractic?

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People standing in a line in various poses

Chiropractors would like to see everyone benefit from chiropractic care. The Gallup-Palmer report revealed 14 percent of U.S. adults saw a chiropractor in the last year. It would seem we have work to do if everyone is to experience the benefits of chiropractic care.

Highlights of the Gallup-Palmer report

Palmer College of Chiropractic commissioned Gallup to conduct the first-ever nationally representative annual survey measuring perceptions of, and experiences with, chiropractic among U.S. adults. The survey will be repeated for at least two more years. Following are some key findings:

  • An estimated 33.6 million U.S. adults (14 percent) used chiropractic care within the last 12 months prior to the survey conducted February–May 2015.
  • The majority (57 percent) of Americans are likely to see a chiropractor for neck or back pain.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of adult Americans believe chiropractors are effective at treating neck and back pain.
  • More than half of all U.S. adults have visited a doctor of chiropractic.
  • Nearly half of U.S. adults don’t know if their insurance covers chiropractic care.
  • When asked if they’d ever had someone discourage them from going to a chiropractor, 29 percent said a family member or friend had discouraged them, compared to 13 percent who said it was a medical doctor.
  • Only 15 percent of chiropractic patients know that chiropractors receive more than seven years of education beyond high school. This is important because education level equates to competency, which leads to public trust.
  • Other barriers to people seeking chiropractic care are concerns about cost and safety.

The findings of the Gallup-Palmer report can serve as a unifying rallying point for the chiropractic profession. “The larger goal of this project is to increase the use of chiropractic,” says Palmer College of Chiropractic Chancellor Dennis Marchiori, D.C., Ph.D., Davenport ’90. “We realized the first step was to understand the public’s point of view. The Gallup- Palmer survey focuses on the public’s issues and their perceptions. This report provides groundbreaking, national data on barriers to chiropractic care. The good news is that many of these barriers are misperceptions on the part of the public. We have good data on chiropractic education levels, safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness. Our challenge now is to change public perceptions by bringing this information to the public.”

Adds Palmer’s San Jose Campus President William Meeker, D.C., M.P.H., San Jose ’82. “This survey was designed to help chiropractors facilitate increased use of chiropractic. We found that safety, cost and trust are the battlefields we need to fight on.”

Analysis from the experts.

In conjunction with the release of the Gallup-Palmer report, William Weeks, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., analyzed the data and published his findings online in The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics* . Dr. Weeks is a faculty member at The Dartmouth Institute as well as chair of clinical and health services research at the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research.

“I thought the geographic analyses were most interesting,” he says. “Where there was a higher supply of chiropractors in the community, there was a greater perception that chiropractors are trustworthy, lower perception that chiropractic care might be dangerous, and a greater perception that chiropractic care is effective. In essence, familiarity with chiropractic seemingly breeds respect and trust.”

Dr. Weeks found the survey data on chiropractic usage surprising. “I was fairly surprised that about half of the survey population had ever used chiropractic care, with about one-fourth having used chiropractic care in the last five years,” he adds. “I was also surprised that over half of survey respondents were very likely to use chiropractic for neck or back pain. That’s higher than I expected, and it bodes well for the profession.”

He advocates the profession adopting an identity as spine care professionals. “To me, survey results suggested that a clear professional identity as spine care professionals would improve potential patients’ understanding of chiropractic, clarify the safety of chiropractic care, and increase the likelihood that patients use doctors of chiropractic for treatment of neck and back pain, two extremely and increasingly common, disabling and expensive medical conditions.”

57% of adults are likely to see a chiropractor for neck or back pain.

Experts from the Gallup organization had a unique view of the Gallup-Palmer report data and how the chiropractic profession can use it. Cynthia English, M.P.P., a client service consultant for Gallup and Palmer’s liaison on this project, found a lack of information about insurance coverage of chiropractic among the public to be most interesting.

“Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults say that chiropractors are effective at treating back and neck pain, yet only 14 percent have gone to one in the last 12 months,” English says. “While very few U.S. adults have an outright negative view of chiropractic, there are many people with positive views who are still not using services. This study explores several possible reasons, but one finding that emerges is a lack of information regarding health insurance coverage for chiropractic. Half of U.S. adults don’t know if chiropractic is covered, and about 40 percent think chiropractic care is too expensive and requires too many visits. Together, these items reveal that uncertainty related to the costs of chiropractic care could be a barrier to some.”

The good news: the majority of U.S. adults believe chiropractors are effective at treating neck and back pain. The bad news: 48% of U.S. adults don

As for how chiropractors can leverage this data, English was firm in her opinion that education and awareness are vital. “Our data shows that people who are more informed about chiropractic, including the costs and training required to be a chiropractor, are less concerned about potential dangers and less critical of the overall cost,” she says. “There’s a significant opportunity to educate the public and potentially attract more people to chiropractic.”

A challenge to the profession: Change perceptions of chiropractic

Chiropractic use higher than previous estimates. 33.6 million U.S. adults sought chiropractic care in 2014.

This is the challenge inherent in the Gallup-Palmer findings: What can chiropractors do with this information to change public perceptions of chiropractic and increase the number of patients benefiting from care?

It’s clear that public education is key. At Palmer, we’ve taken the first steps by creating a number of graphs and charts based on the Gallup- Palmer findings and making them available to anyone, freeof- charge, on our website at We’ve created a number of these infographs that can be downloaded and used in electronic or print form for patient education. These tools summarize key data points as well as address barriers to care such as chiropractic education levels and safety. (See “practice insights” section on page 14 for tips on how to use these tools in your practice.)

Screenshot of Dr. McLeod

One example of a chiropractor using Palmer’s patient- education tools is Gary McLeod, D.C., Davenport ’81, of Three Rivers, Mich. He placed a story on his website that includes all the Gallup-Palmer report charts available on the Palmer website. Go to (select “chiropractic research”) to see how his practice uses these tools.

“While driving home from Homecoming I was pretty excited about the information from the Gallup- Palmer report and decided to add it to our website for the benefit of prospective patients who might be surfing the web,” he says. “Gallup is a credible source, so the information gleaned from the survey is a good thirdparty opinion. Sharing this information is a great way to help educate our patients (and the public) about how well chiropractic is perceived. It also was good to see where we are perceived poorly (lack of understanding about our extensive training, for example) and to address this head-on. The graphics from Palmer are great!”

Dynamic Chiropractic logo

Dr. Marchiori profile

Dr. Meeker holding microphone

Additionally, Drs. Marchiori and Meeker presented a national webinar on the Gallup-Palmer report , hosted by Dynamic Chiropractic, in October. Dr. Marchiori also has made a number of presentations at state association meetings, and he and other Palmer representatives will continue to do so in the coming months.

But Palmer can’t do it alone. In addition to individual practitioners using Palmer’s patient-education tools to break down barriers to care, the chiropractic profession must step up to the plate. Palmer has made the Gallup-Palmer report, its associated data and articles, and patient-education tools accessible to anyone—for free.

The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, the American Chiropractic Association, and others, are already using this data in public-education efforts. The profession must use this survey data, and that of subsequent surveys, to address public perceptions, and misperceptions, to increase the number of people experiencing the benefits of chiropractic.

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