Words matter: the prevalence of chiropractic-specific terminology on Australian chiropractors’ websites

Young, Kenneth orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8837-7977 (2020) Words matter: the prevalence of chiropractic-specific terminology on Australian chiropractors’ websites. Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, 28 (18).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12998-020-00306-9



Chiropractors use words and phrases in unique ways to express traditional, chiropractic-specific theories. This lexicon represents concepts that reinforce the separation of chiropractic from other health care professions. It may impact referrals both to and from chiropractors, lead to public confusion about health care issues, and reduce cross-disciplinary research. Therefore, it is important to understand how prevalent chiropractic-specific terms are in publicly available media.

Five chiropractic terms were selected: subluxation, adjustment, vital (−ism/−istic), wellness, and Innate (Intelligence). States and territories in Australia were proportionately sampled according to population of chiropractors using a Google search for chiropractors’ private practice websites. The top results were recorded. Websites were word-searched on every publicly available page for the five terms. Context was checked to count only terms that were used to support a chiropractic-specific concepts. The number of occurrences of each term was recorded, tallied nationally and by state/territory. Descriptive statistics were applied to determine prevalence.

Three hundred sixty-nine websites were sampled, based on an estimate of 5500 chiropractors practising in Australia. Nationally, 85% of chiropractors used one or more terms. The term adjust (−ing/−ment) occurred most frequently, being found on 283 websites (77%) with a total of 2249 occurrences. Wellness was found on 199 websites (54%) with 872 occurrences; subluxation was found on 104 websites (28%), 489 occurrences; vital (−ism/−istic) on 71 websites (19%) with 158 occurrences; and Innate was least used, being found on 39 websites (11%) with 137 occurrences.

A majority of the Australian chiropractors sampled used one or more chiropractic-specific terms on their websites. Future research should explore the effects of chiropractic language on the public, policy-makers, and other health care professionals.

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