Predictors of Visit Frequency for Patients Using Ongoing Chiropractic Care for Chronic Low Back and Chronic Neck Pain

Analysis of Observational Data

Published in: BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Volume 21, Article number 298 (2020). doi: 10.1186/s12891-020-03330-1

Posted on RAND.org on February 25, 2022

by Patricia M. Herman, Sarah E. Edgington, Eric Hurwitz, Ian D. Coulter

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Background

Chronic spinal pain is prevalent, expensive and long-lasting. Several provider-based nonpharmacologic therapies have now been recommended for chronic low-back pain (CLBP) and chronic neck pain (CNP). However, healthcare and coverage policies provide little guidance or evidence regarding the long-term use of this care. To provide one glimpse into the long-term use of nonpharmacologic provider-based care, this study examines the predictors of visit frequency in a large sample of patients with CLBP and CNP using ongoing chiropractic care.

Methods

Observational data were collected from a large national sample of chiropractic patients in the US with non-specific CLBP and CNP. Visit frequency was defined as average number of chiropractic visits per month over the 3-month study period. Potential baseline predictor variables were entered into two sets of multi-level models according to a defined causal theory—in this case, Anderson's Behavioral Model of Health Services Use.

Results

Our sample included 852 patients with CLBP and 705 with CNP. Visit frequency varied significantly by chiropractor/clinic, so our models controlled for this clustering. Patients with either condition used an average of 2.3 visits per month. In the final models visit frequency increased (0.44 visits per month, p = .008) for those with CLBP and some coverage for chiropractic, but coverage had little effect on visits for patients with CNP. Patients with worse function or just starting care also had more visits and those near to ending care had fewer visits. However, visit frequency was also determined by the chiropractor/clinic where treatment was received. Chiropractors who reported seeing more patients per day also had patients with higher visit frequency, and the patients of chiropractors with 20 to 30 years of experience had fewer visits per month. In addition, after controlling for both patient and chiropractor characteristics, the state in which care was received made a difference, likely through state-level policies and regulations.

Conclusions

Chiropractic patients with CLBP and CNP use a range of visit frequencies for their ongoing care. The predictors of these frequencies could be useful for understanding and developing policies for ongoing provider-based care.

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