Which Chiropractic Styles Optimize Patient Satisfaction?

Research has shown that patients with back pain rate chiropractic care higher than other medical care for satisfaction with their treatment. While these findings are encouraging, many chiropractors have been left wondering what they can do to make their patients even happier, to stand out among other chiropractors.

A recent study analyzed patient surveys to compare the success of chiropractic styles and determine how satisfied patients were considering factors such as appointment length, frequency, focus of care, and payment methods.

Researchers conducted an anonymous cross-sectional questionnaire. These surveys were distributed at five different chiropractic clinics across the UK. The questions in the survey were designed to encourage patients to participate and could be done on-site or off-site.

Patients were asked demographic information, in addition to details about their treatment, such as the frequency, number, and lengths of appointments. The questionnaire also determined the efficacy of different styles for relieving pain and improving the patients' quality of life. Lastly, patients provided information about program type (either wellness maintenance or symptom reduction) and payment methods (pay-as-go or prepayment plans).

Of the 250 surveys distributed, around 75% were completed and returned. A significantly higher portion of these patients were female and about 37% of respondents were over age 60. The biggest reason for chiropractic care among participants was found to be back pain.

The majority of the patients were on a cycle of four weekly treatments. Less than 3% visited their chiropractor two or more times per week.

The length of time for chiropractic treatment was almost evenly split among the patient surveys. Appointments that were 6-10 minutes was the average for 35% of patients; 44% had appointments between 11 and 20 minutes; 34% reported appointments usually more than 30 minutes.

All the chiropractic clinics in the survey were deemed successful based on pain improvement and high patient quality of life.

On a 0-10 scale, about 50% of respondents were extremely satisfied with their treatment and gave the maximum score of 10. Another 25% of patients rated 9-10. The authors of the study concluded that about 75% of patients were satisfied with their chiropractic treatments.

In weighing patient satisfaction with different stylistic factors, the researchers found that in general, the most satisfaction came from longer, less frequent appointments. For the best effect on pain scores, they found that appointments should be a minimum of 10 minutes; to maximize patient satisfaction and quality of life, this time should increase to about 20 minutes. They found that there is little justification for appointments more than 30 minutes in length.

Clinics with a focus on wellness care, requiring patients' more frequent visits, did not score as highly as those designed to address symptoms and requiring less frequent care sessions. Payment plans had little impact on patient satisfaction.

The study results implied that to maximize patient satisfaction, more emphasis should be placed on patient choice in determining treatment frequency.


Mace R, Cunliffe C, Hunnisett A. Patient satisfaction and chiropractic clinic style: A cross sectional survey. Clinical Chiropractic 2012; 15: 158-162.