Charting the future of UK chiropractic care with the British Chiropractic Association
This Chiropractic Awareness Week (4–10 April) our President, Catherine Quinn, is exploring the opportunity and need for a more integrated healthcare eco-system, putting the spotlight on how chiropractors can help alleviate pressures and support improved patient outcomes.
Chiropractic treatment often prompts questions and some debate. What treatments fit under chiropractic care? Is the profession evidence based and how is it regulated? Where does it sit amongst other health professions like physiotherapy? This Chiropractic Awareness Week (CAW), I want to address these questions, tackle some of the common misconceptions, and share our ambition for the future of the profession.
The role of chiropractic today
The need for effective and efficient MSK treatment is really clear; in the UK, an estimated 17.8 million people live with a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition, equivalent to approximately 28.9% of the total population. Lower back and neck pain specifically are the greatest causes of years lost to disability in the UK, with chronic joint pain or osteoarthritis affecting more than 8.75 million people. In addition to this, musculoskeletal conditions also account for 30% of all GP appointments, placing immense pressure on a system which is already under stress.
With these numbers in mind, there is a lot of opportunity to more closely integrate chiropractic within health and community services to help alleviate pressures on primary care facilities like GPs. This is something we’re really passionate about at the BCA. However, we recognise that there are varying perceptions of chiropractic care, not just from the public but across our health peers too. We want to address this, so every person and health discipline has a consistent understanding.
First and foremost, chiropractic is a statutorily regulated healthcare profession, supported by evidence, which offers a safe form of treatment for patients with a range of conditions. In the UK, chiropractors are regulated by law and required to adhere to strict codes of practice, in the same way as dentists and doctors. At the BCA we want to represent the highest quality chiropractic care, which is encapsulated by a patient centred approach, driven by evidence and science.
As a patient-first organisation, our primary goal is to equip our members with the professional support required to provide the best treatment possible for those who need care. We truly believe that working collaboratively with other primary care and NHS services is the way to reach this goal and enhance the understanding of our profession.
The benefits of collaborative healthcare
At the BCA, our aim is to grow this collaborative approach, working closely with the wider health community to offer patients the best level of care that we can.
MSK patients could see much shorter wait times for treatment (as little as 2-3 days), so the benefits for both the patient and GP are clear.
By working as part of an integrated care model, with chiropractors, GPs, physiotherapists, and other medical professionals, there is the potential to create a system that provides patients with more direct routes to the treatments that they need, with greater choice.
It is important to also celebrate the way in which chiropractors contribute to public health through the independent sector. The 17.8 million people living with a musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions cannot be exclusively served by the NHS, and with the strain placed on NHS resources seen now more than ever throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen greater demand that ever for the care chiropractors provide to their local communities in a private setting. Private practice referrals are becoming more common, in line with the modern healthcare movement towards greater patient choice, and integration means that chiropractors are becoming a part of the private and public blend – with the shared goal of providing the most efficient and effective patient care
In short, better integrated care models mean that patients can receive more direct routes to the treatment they need. I believe chiropractors can better contribute to the health of our country’s population, supporting primary health workers within the NHS via mutually beneficial collaboration
As with any health profession or industry there are different types of service and expertise, which can lead to different experiences, both those that are extremely positive and others, on occasion, that are less so. At the BCA we want to represent a consistent quality and attention to providing the best care possible – the patient must always come first. It’s therefore extremely important that we address any misconceptions head on. These are three of the most common ones we often hear:
“Chiropractic is just cracking backs” = MYTH – In the UK chiropractic is a regulated profession and chiropractors provide patients with a whole wealth of treatments, spinal adjustment being just one. There’s no one fit approach and every patient’s plan is treated individually – many will never hear the crack or popping sounds. The crack or popping sound that’s produced from a spinal manipulation comes from a change of pressure occurring within joints. It’s generated by something called a cavitation.
“Chiropractors are massage therapists with a different name” = MYTH – Chiropractors are extensively trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, and muscles), as well as the effects these disorders can have on the nervous system and general health. Qualified individuals in this industry are working as fully regulated healthcare professionals with at least four years of training. BCA members also take this a step further. New members are provisional until they take part in a post-registration training course with the Royal College of Chiropractors.
“Chiropractic leads to a dependence on treatment, rather than solving the problem” = MYTH – The goal of a chiropractor is always to create a bespoke work and care plan for each patient which aims to get the problem of their pain and solve it in the safest and most efficient way possible. Chiropractors are extensively trained in treating spinal management conditions – this can range from neck to lower and mid-back conditions. For further information about chiropractic treatment click here.
This is the start of a much bigger conversation and, at the BCA, we’ll continue to address misconceptions and work on driving peer acceptance, trust and inclusion. Our members share a likeminded approach to patient-centred care, which I’m very proud to be part of. My main takeaway for year’s Chiropractic Awareness Week for anyone who wants to learn more would be to ask questions and start a conversation.
Catherine has been President of the BCA since 2017 and is the youngest President the BCA has ever had. She is the third female president in the BCA’s history, with its first in 1945 and the second in 1970. As well as making a lasting impact on the BCA by breaking down some of the barriers and myths about the industry, Catherine has empowered those in the profession so that its breadth and support is better understood by a wide range of audiences.