How important is research-based practice?

A study published in the  Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics in the February 2007 evaluated the perceptions of research, frequency in use of research findings in practice, and the level of research skills of chiropractors and massage therapists in Canada. The study was conducted by the Health Systems and Workforce Research Unit of the Calgary Health Region in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The study, titled “How important is research-based practice to chiropractors and massage therapists?” stated chiropractors and massage therapists reported a generally positive perception toward research and acknowledged the importance of research to validate their practice.

A survey was mailed to members of the College of Chiropractors of Alberta (833 practitioners) and the
Massage Therapist Association of Alberta (650 practitioners).  Only 483 questionnaires were returned (response rate, 33%).  Chiropractors had a higher response rate (39%) compared to massage therapists (160 respondent; 24%). Chiropractors and massage therapists reported an overall positive perception toward research, acknowledging the importance of research to validate their practice.

However, a positive perception does not necessarily translate into practice, which was confirmed in the study: although almost 80% of the respondents strongly agreed with the statement that research adds credibility to their practice, only about 25% reported that they apply research in their practice in a consistent manner.
Chiropractors and massage therapists in this study indicated minimal use of evidence-based information sources, such as peer-reviewed journals and electronic databases, and instead indicated a preference for handbooks and consulting with colleagues.

While both groups felt comfortable using the library, they had little confidence in their research skills and overall application of research in practice was limited. Significant differences were found between the 2 professional groups, with chiropractors reporting more research skills and evidence-based practice.

It appears that in Canada neither chiropractors nor massage therapists consistently apply research
in practice, which may result from a lack of research education and research skills. The differences between the 2 professional groups may be attributed to the chiropractic profession’s relatively more research-focused professional training. Strategies to encourage greater research uptake and evidence-based behavior by practitioners include professional association incentives, such as education credits or practitioner cooperatives that would provide time and support for research.