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Managing Neck and Back Pain in America

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In the fourth installment of Gallup and Palmer’s annual report, we unveil new findings on Americans’ preferences for neck or back pain care, patient experiences with health-care providers and the prevalence of various methods for addressing this type of pain in the United States. Click the image to view a .pdf of the full report.

Among the key findings:

  • Americans are open to an all-of-the-above approach to address neck and back pain. Sixty-seven percent of Americans suffering from neck or back pain would want to see a professional who treats neck or back pain using a variety of methods including prescription medication or surgery. Still, 79% of U.S. adults would prefer to try to address their neck or back pain using methods other than prescription medication first.

  • Many neck or back pain patients use self-care techniques – non-drug therapies such as superficial heat (77%), yoga (72%) and cold packs (60%). However, many also use non-drug therapies that require a health-care professional for care, such as massage (53%), spinal adjustment (47%) and physical therapy (42%).

  • Americans’ reasons for visiting different practitioners vary. Among those who’d seen an M.D. most often for recent neck or back pain, the top reasons were insurance coverage (38%), trust (30%), habit (26%) and effectiveness (23%). For physical therapists, it’s safety (50%), insurance coverage (47%) and effectiveness (42%). For chiropractors, it’s safety (54%), trust (53%) and effectiveness (52%).

A majority of U.S. adults have positive views of chiropractors.

  • 63 percent agree most chiropractors have their patients' best interest in mind

  • 52 percent agree most chiropractors are trustworthy

Other key findings include:

  • Among frequently visited practitioners, sufferers of neck or back pain report a high level of care.

  • Roughly nine out of 10 adults who saw a chiropractor most often for significant neck or back pain in the last 12 months say their chiropractor often listens (93%), provides convenient, quick access to care (93%), demonstrates care/compassion (91%) and explains things well (88%). Similar percentages exist for physical therapists.

  • Adults who saw a medical doctor most often for neck or back pain are less likely to say their health care provider did these things – although majorities still do. Seventy-two percent say their medical doctor listens, 67% say their medical doctor explains things well, and 66% say they demonstrate care/compassion.


  • News Release

  • Article

  • 2018 Gallup-Palmer Report


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