Chiropractic Inching Its Way Into the Lives of People Over 55

From the WebMD Archives

May 16, 2000 --More and more baby boomers are paying visits to the chiropractor, at least for mild to moderate problems. According to researchers, chiropractic care is serving as both a substitute for -- and a supplement to -- medical care.

Results of a study of more than 800 patients showed that more than half of people over age 55 seek chiropractic care for mild to moderate complaints, without visiting their primary care provider. Musculoskeletal pain, such as low back pain, accounts for nine out of 10 chiropractic visits. Patients with more severe symptoms, however, seem to use both medical and chiropractic care. The findings were published in the May issue of the Journal of the Geriatric Society.

According to Jerome McAndrews, Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and national spokesman for the American Chiropractic Association, "Sixty million people in the U.S. have used chiropractics -- 27 million in 1999 alone." He says studies have shown that the majority of people who visit chiropractors are concerned about wellness, eating habits, and healthy lifestyles. "These are people who prefer not to rush to the hospital or ... take medication," he tells WebMD.

"Use of pain medication is an important consideration," write Cheryl Hawk, DC, PhD, and colleagues from the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research in Davenport, Iowa, and elsewhere. More than half of patients in this study with mild pain and disability report taking no pain medication. In addition, comparing the sample of patients in this study with the general U.S. population, "these chiropractic patients seem to be healthier in several respects."

"Many of these 'baby boomers' recognize that the old traditional model of health care that deals with trauma and emergency-type care is no longer applicable to a growing and aging population of chronic illness," McAndrews says. "They want and will demand a health care system that addresses the issues of wellness, prevention, maintenance, and [skeletal] health because of the significance attached to being able to [get around on one's own]. Chiropractic is specifically and well focused to address many of these issues. The demand will continue to grow."

Hawk and her researchers hope their study will help pave the way for better communication between chiropractors and medical providers. "Patients who do see a chiropractor and a medical physician and/or other types of providers should let each of their providers -- chiropractic, medical, and other types -- know about the others, in order to get the best care possible," Hawk says.

Vital Information:

  • About half of people over age 55 see a chiropractor for mild to moderate complaints, usually low back pain.
  • Patients with more severe complaints tend to seek both traditional medical care and chiropractic care.
  • People who use chiropractic care are more likely to be focused on wellness, eating habits, and healthy lifestyles, and prefer not to take medications, according to a new report.