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J Chiropr Humanit. 2010 Dec;17(1):40-6. doi: 10.1016/j.echu.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 30.

Implications and limitations of appropriateness studies for chiropractic.

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  • 1Instructor, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth College, Lebanon, NH.



The appropriate role for chiropractic in US health care has not been established, but third-party payors and public policy makers must make decisions about the appropriate role for chiropractors in health care systems and for the services that chiropractors provide. Appropriateness studies for chiropractic may inform those decisions. The purpose of this article is to discuss the implications and limitations of appropriateness studies for chiropractic.


We reviewed the general context for assessment of the appropriateness and the application of appropriateness studies to chiropractic in particular. We evaluated the implications and limitations for chiropractic of methods of small area analysis and the RAND-UCLA Appropriateness Method. The RAND-UCLA Appropriateness Method has been applied to the evaluation of spinal manipulation. Regional variations in chiropractic utilization have yet to be described through small area analysis, but these methods appear to hold some potential for assessing the appropriateness of chiropractic care. Both small area analysis and the RAND-UCLA method offer limited possibilities for the assessment of chiropractic appropriateness.


Future assessment of the appropriate role for chiropractic in US health care will raise issues beyond the scope of previous appropriateness studies. Studying the appropriate role for chiropractic will require consideration of the clinical discipline in its entirety, rather than individual consideration of specific interventions. A fair assessment of chiropractic appropriateness will require new evidence and perhaps new research methodologies.


Chiropractic; Disease management; Small area analysis; Utilization

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