Murdoch chiropractic students shine in interdisciplinary study

December 10, 2012

A study by the Western Australian Health Department has revealed that chiropractic students at Murdoch University compare favourably against students from other health disciplines when it comes to evidence-based management of lower back pain.

More than 600 final year students in chiropractic, medicine, occupational therapy, pharmacy and physiotherapy from four WA universities, including Murdoch, responded to a survey assessing treatment beliefs and approaches to treatment.

The study by Dr Andrew Briggs, Helen Slater and colleagues, was published in the prestigious European Journal of Pain in November. It found that physiotherapy and chiropractic students’ attitudes, beliefs and approaches to the management of lower back pain were significantly more consistent with evidence-based clinical guidelines when compared with the other disciplines.

The study also reveals that chiropractic students at Murdoch devote up to 310 hours of their five year course, which includes a 12-month internship, to the management of lower back pain. This was significantly higher than students in other disciplines, and 40% more hours than its closest competitor.

Murdoch University is the only university in WA which offers the five year Chiropractic Science course.

Associate Professor Bruce Walker, the Deputy Dean of the School of Chiropractic and Sports Science, welcomed the findings of the paper and said that further refinement of the course content will enhance the evidence-based practice approach to chiropractic practice in the coming year.

Professor Walker added: “The results of the study suggest two things: Firstly chiropractic graduates’ attitudes and approaches to managing lower back pain is at least as evidence-based as other disciplines, if not more so.

“And secondly, a contemporary generation of newly-graduated chiropractors may well develop a key role in the treatment of lower back pain in the WA healthcare system.

“We are pleased that our rigorous approach to the management of lower back pain is reflected in this study.”

Dr Randy Beck from the Chiropractors Association of Australia (WA) said: “This recent research firmly highlights that chiropractors in training are the best placed of the medical profession students to advise on evidence-based approaches to treat lower back pain.”

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