698 Surprise! Your Best Referral Source
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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 1, 2020, Vol. 38, Issue 02

Surprise! Your Best Referral Source

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

Exciting study findings recently published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reveal the probability that U.S. medical physicians "recommend complementary health approaches (CHAs) to their patients." For the study, the researchers used "physician-level data" from the "2012 Physician Induction Interview of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS PII), a nationally representative survey of office-based physicians."1

MDs Recommend Manipulation

While the most commonly recommended CHA is massage therapy, the second most commonly recommended approach is "chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation." According to this study, 27.1 percent of physicians recommend manipulation to their patients.

While you may be tempted to discount these finding because they include osteopathic manipulation, you should consider the following:

  • Chiropractic is named first in the survey choice: "chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation."
  • All DCs adjust/manipulate, but research suggests "over 50% of the responding osteopathic physicians used OMT on less than 5% of their patients"2
  • Earlier research has already established that "chiropractors account for around 90% of the manipulation in the United States."3

But Wait … There's More

The authors further examined their findings by medical specialty, findings that "chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation" is the most commonly recommended approach by general/family practice physicians at 54.0 percent. Imagine that! More than half of all GP/FPs recommend manipulation to their patients.

At this point, every DC in the country should be calling up their local GP/FP and asking them out to lunch, creating a relationship that will help the MD feel comfortable in referring patients and vice-versa. Remember, if you reach out to two GPs / FPs in your community, chances are one of them will be extremely receptive to a referral relationship based on these study findings.

Yes, you'll get rejected by every other MD, but so what? They're already not referring to you. The good news is that half of them are ready to refer, if you just make the effort.

The results of this study also tell us which medical specialties are less likely to recommend "chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation." It seems psychiatrists (adjusted odds ratio = 0.13), OB/GYNs (adjusted odds ratio = 0.38) and pediatricians (adjusted odds ratio = 0.26) are less likely to recommend manipulation than GPs and FPs. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to connect with these providers; it just means you may have to reach out to a few more of them before you're able to forge a referral relationship.

Take the First Step

There has never been a better time in our 125-year history to create professional relationships with medical doctors. And while political medicine and the pharmaceutical industry (and now some tech companies) have historically been opposed to chiropractic, medical physicians are seeing through the propaganda and forming their own opinions.

Step out of your office one afternoon a month and spend time educating MDs in your area about the benefits chiropractic care can provide their patients. Before you know it, you'll have established a win-win-win relationship for you, at least once MD and their patients. At this point, the only thing preventing you from receiving medical referrals is your lack of initiative.


  1. Stussman BJ, Nahin RR, Barnes PM, et al. U.S. physician recommendations to their patients about the use of complementary health approaches. J Altern Complement Med, 2019 Nov 25; e-pub ahead of print.
  2. Johnson SM, Kurtz ME. Diminished use of osteopathic manipulative treatment and its impact on the uniqueness of the osteopathic profession. Acad Med, 2001 Aug;76(8):821-8.
  3. Coulter ID. Efficacy and risks of chiropractic manipulation. Integrative Med, Spring 1998;1(2):61-66.

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