Physicians using spinal manipulative treatment in the Netherlands: A description of their characteristics and their patients

Wouter Schuller*, Raymond W.J.G. Ostelo, Daphne C. Rohrich, Adri T. Apeldoorn, Henrica C.W. De Vet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Various health care professionals apply Spinal Manipulative Treatment (SMT) in daily practice. While the characteristics of chiropractors and manual therapists and the characteristics of their patient populations are well described, there is little research about physicians who use SMT techniques. A distinct group of physicians in The Netherlands has been trained in musculoskeletal (MSK) medicine, which includes the use of SMT. Our objective was to describe the characteristics of these physicians and their patient population. Methods: All registered MSK physicians were approached with questionnaires and telephone interviews to collect data about their characteristics. Data about patient characteristics were extracted from a web-based register. In this register physicians recorded basic patient data (age, gender, the type and duration of the main complaint, concomitant complaints and the type of referral) at the first consultation. Patients were invited to fill in web-based questionnaires to provide baseline data about previous treatments and the severity of their main complaint. Functional impairment was measured with Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs). Results: Questionnaires were sent to 138 physicians of whom 90 responded (65%). Most physicians were trained in MSK medicine after a career in other medical specialities. They reported to combine their SMT treatment with a variety of diagnostic and treatment options part of which were only permissible for physicians, such as prescription medication and injections. The majority of patients presented with complaints of long duration (62.1% > 1 year), most frequently low back pain (48.1%) or neck pain (16.9%), with mean scores of 6.0 and 6.2, respectively, on a 0 to10 numerical rating scale (NRS) for pain intensity. Mean scores on all PROMs showed moderate impairment. Patients most frequently reported previous treatment by physical therapists (68.1%), manual therapists (37.7%) or chiropractors (17.0%). Conclusion: Our study showed that MSK physicians in The Netherlands used an array of SMT techniques. They embedded their SMT techniques in a broad array of other diagnostic and treatment options, part of which were limited to medical doctors. Most patients consulted MSK physicians with spinal pain of long duration with moderate functional impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number512
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2017


This publication is a result of a larger research project funded by the Dutch Association for Musculoskeletal Medicine. The funding body approved of the study design but was not involved in the collection, the analyses or the interpretation of the data, or in the writing of the manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Dutch Association for Musculoskeletal Medicine


    • Chiropractic treatment
    • Manual therapy
    • MSK medicine
    • Musculoskeletal medicine
    • Patient characteristics
    • Spinal manipulative treatment


    Dive into the research topics of 'Physicians using spinal manipulative treatment in the Netherlands: A description of their characteristics and their patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this