Survey Identifies Americans' Preferences for Pain Management

November 21, 2017

Most US adults would prefer to find other ways to manage their pain, such as neck or back pain, before taking prescribed pain medication, a Gallup research brief found.

While nearly two-thirds of US adults have had neck or back pain severe enough that they saw a healthcare professional for care at some point in their lifetime, a Gallup research brief found that most US adults prefer to find other ways to manage their pain before taking prescribed pain medication.

While there are many non-drug treatments available, such as spinal manipulation, acupuncture and physical therapy, there is little information about the attitudes and experiences with these treatments.

“US adults are most likely to want to see a medical doctor for significant neck or back pain while about 1 in 4 would prefer to see a chiropractor over other healthcare professionals,” wrote the authors of the brief. “Far fewer say they would most like to see a physical therapist, an acupuncturist or a massage therapist for significant neck or back pain.”

The 2017 Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Report found that 55% of adults in the United States say that they are likely to see a chiropractor if they had significant neck or back pain, and nearly 62 million US adults saw a chiropractor in the last 5 years.

For those who saw a chiropractor in the last 5 years, the majority agreed that the quality of care they received was a good value for the money, the chiropractor took time to educate them about treatment options, the chiropractor really cared about them, and they would recommend chiropractic care to family members or friends.

“Patients are much more likely to recommend chiropractic care to their friends and family when chiropractors show they care and take time to educate them about the treatment options available,” wrote the authors.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • About 1 in 4 adults saw a healthcare professional for significant neck or back pain in the last 12 months, and more than half of these adults have had an ongoing problem with neck or back pain for at least 5 years.
  • Given a choice, 78% of US adults prefer to try other ways to address their physical pain before taking pain medication prescribed by a doctor.
  • Adults in the US with significant neck or back pain are more likely to say chiropractic care is safer than prescription medication.
  • Americans are slightly more likely to say that chiropractic care is more effective than prescription pain medication for patients who have significant neck or back pain.

The most common reasons given for not seeing a chiropractor were that they have another healthcare provider they go to (33%), they do not trust chiropractors (29%), and they do not think chiropractic care is safe (23%).