Most commonly used methods of detecting spinal subluxation and the preferred term for its description: A survey of chiropractors in Victoria, Australia

B. F. Walker, R. Buchbinder

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Purpose: To determine the most commonly used diagnostic methods for detecting the spinal entity that chiropractors adjust/manipulate and the preferred term for describing this entity. Design: Postal survey (self- completed questionnaire). Setting: Victoria, Australia. Participants: All 554 chiropractors registered May 30, 1994, with the Chiropractors and Osteopaths Registration Board of Victoria. Main outcome measures: Frequency of use and opinion with respect to reliability of 16 specific methods, measured on a 7- point, Likert-type scale [never used (1) to always used (7) and very unreliable (1) to very reliable (7), respectively]; the respondent's preferred term for describing the spinal entity that chiropractors adjust/manipulate. Results: The response rate was 85%. The most commonly used method was static palpation (mean score 6.6 ± 1.1). Seven other methods, including pain description of the patient, orthopedic tests, motion palpation, visual posture analysis, leg length discrepancy, neurological tests and plain static X-rays had mean scores greater than 4.0. All of these methods, as well as functional X-ray views and kinesiological muscle testing, were considered reliable, with mean reliability scores greater than 4.0. Motion palpation was regarded as the most reliable method (mean reliability score 5.9 ± 1.2). Seventy-five different terms for describing the spinal entity were named by 440 respondents. 'Subluxation' was included in the preferred term of 294 respondents (67%), 46 included 'dysfunction' (11%), 35 included 'fixation' (8%) and 20 included 'manipulable' (4.5%). Conclusion: Chiropractors commonly use a variety of methods to identify the spinal entity that they manipulate. There is no consensus as to the preferred term for describing this entity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-589
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Chiropractic
  • Diagnosis
  • Reliability
  • Terminology
  • Validity

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