The use of complementary and alternative medicine, with its associated out-of-pocket cost for patients, has been the subject of concern and debate among health professionals, researchers, and policy makers. A recent study evaluated the impact of geography on the use of specific types of complementary therapies like chiropractic care among Australian women.
The researchers used the surveys of a cross-section of 1,427 middle-aged women in Australia to observe connections between place of residence, measures of health status, ratings of health-care services, and consultation with complementary and alternative practitioners. The study was focused on comparing the use of specific complementary and alternative methods used in urban versus rural areas.
The most commonly consulted practitioners in the study were massage therapists, chiropractors, and naturopaths. The most significant difference between the areas of residence in the study were found among women who used chiropractors. Participants who lived in rural areas were more likely to consult a chiropractor than their urban counterparts.
Why do rural women consult chiropractors more often than those in major cities? The reason could be that chiropractors fill a gap where general practitioners are lacking. In the study, women in rural areas were far less satisfied than urban women with their access to medical specialists, their access to female doctors, their choices of general practitioners, and how long they have to wait for an appointment.
In the Australian health-care system, chiropractors are eligible to provide subsidized health services to people with chronic diseases. With both the higher rates of chronic disease and the general affinity for chiropractic use in rural areas, chiropractors may provide the support needed to manage musculoskeletal conditions outside of major cities. The high level of chiropractic consultations in rural areas, according to the study authors, “highlights that chiropractors may play a substantial and significant role in the health care of non-urban populations.”
Previous research has also suggested that chiropractors can help fill the primary-care gap in the US.
Adams J, Sibbritt D, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine consultations in urban and nonurban areas: A national survey of 1427 Australian women. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2012; 36(1): 12-19.