Prevalence and factors associated with the use of primary headache diagnostic criteria by chiropractors

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, 2019, 27 (1)
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© 2019 The Author(s). Background: The diagnosis of primary headaches assists health care providers in their decision-making regarding patient treatment, co-management and further evaluation. Chiropractors are popular health care providers for those with primary headaches. The aim of this study is to examine the clinical management factors associated with chiropractors who report the use of primary headache diagnostic criteria. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was distributed between August and November 2016 to a random sample of Australian chiropractors who are members of a practice-based research network (n = 1050) who had reported 'often' providing treatment for patients with headache disorders to report on practitioner approaches to headache diagnosis, management, outcome measures and multidisciplinary collaboration. Multiple logistic regression was conducted to assess the factors that are associated with chiropractors who report using International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) primary headache diagnostic criteria. Results: With a response rate of 36% (n = 381), the majority of chiropractor's report utilising ICHD primary headache diagnostic criteria (84.6%). The factors associated with chiropractors who use ICHD primary headache diagnostic criteria resulting from the regression analysis include a belief that the use of ICHD primary headache criteria influences the management of patients with primary headaches (OR = 7.86; 95%CI: 3.15, 19.60); the use of soft tissue therapies to the neck/shoulders for tension headache management (OR = 4.33; 95%CI: 1.67, 11.19); a belief that primary headache diagnostic criteria are distinct for the diagnosis of primary headaches (OR = 3.64; 95%CI: 1.58, 8.39); the use of headache diaries (OR = 3.52; 95%CI: 1.41, 8.77); the use of ICHD criteria improves decision-making regarding primary headache patient referral/co-management (OR = 2.35; 95%CI: 1.01, 5.47); referral to investigate a headache red-flag (OR = 2.67; 95%CI: 1.02, 6.96) and not referring headache patients to assist headache prevention (OR = 0.16; 95%CI: 0.03, 0.80). Conclusion: Four out of five chiropractors managing headache are engaged in the use of primary headache diagnostic criteria. This practice is likely to influence practitioner clinical decision-making around headache patient management including their co-management with other health care providers. These findings call for a closer assessment of headache characteristics of chiropractic patient populations and for further enquiry to explore the role of chiropractors within interdisciplinary primary headache management.
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