Chiropractic Practice Guidelines

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
Send all comments or additions to:

You may also want to explore the shift away from Guidelines (usually containing numbers/suggested treatment time frames, that are often mistakenly applied as arbitrary limits) to “Best Practices” (clinical judgments regarding patient care that are informed by the best evidence and balanced by patient complexity and provider experience to improve the quality and reduce the costs of care). Please refer to our Outcome Assessment and the Documentation sections for more helpful information.

Jump to: Guidelines From Around the World Articles About Guidelines


Patient Satisfaction Cost-Effectiveness Safety of Chiropractic

Exercise + Chiropractic Chiropractic Rehab Integrated Care

Headache Adverse Events Disc Herniation

Chronic Neck Pain Low Back Pain Whiplash Section

Conditions That Respond Alternative Medicine Approaches to Disease

You may want to explore the shift away from Guidelines (usually containing numbers/suggested treatment time frames, that are often mistakenly applied as arbitrary limits) to “Best Practices” (clinical judgments regarding patient care that are informed by the best evidence and balanced by patient complexity and provider experience to improve the quality and reduce the costs of care).

Evidence-based Practice

This page provides information about interpreting the various statistical tests utilized in journal articles, and contains other information regarding Evidence-based Practice.

Best Practice Initiative

Explore the shift from Guidelines, often containing numbers/ suggested treatment time frames, to “Best Practices”, which are clinical decisions informed by the best evidence available, and balanced by patient complexity and provider experience.

Guidelines Page

Our original Guidelines section contains a compendium of Guidelines from around the World, as well as a selection of articles about the need for, and frequent misuse of these Guidelines.


Guidelines From Around The World

Alternative Medicine Guidelines
A Chiro.Org collection

Britain's Department of Health, in collaboration with the Foundation for Integrated Medicine has published Complementary Medicine, a document that explains the benefits of the top six complementary therapies provided by Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

The “Best Practice” Initiative
A Chiro.Org collection

The Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters (CCGPP), was formed in 1995 at the behest of the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations (COCSA) and with assistance from numerous national associations to create an equitable chiropractic practice document. CCGPP was delegated to examine all existing guidelines, parameters, protocols and best practices in the United States and other nations in the construction of this document. Come review all the CCGPP literature syntheses on low back, upper and lower extremities, non-musculoskeletal conditions, prevention and health promotion, and soft tissue conditions.
You may also enjoy the Evidence-based Practice Page.

Diagnostic Imaging Guidelines for Musculoskeletal Complaints in Adults
A Chiro.Org collection

These evidence-based diagnostic imaging practice guidelines are intended to assist primary care providers and students in decision making regarding the appropriate use of diagnostic imaging for specific clinical presentations. The guidelines are intended to be used in conjunction with sound clinical judgment and experience.

Headache Guidelines (Canada)
A Chiro.Org collection

This material was developed by the Guidelines Development Committee (GDC) under the auspices of the Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Canadian Federation of Chiropractic Regulatory and Education Accrediting Boards, Clinical Practice Guidelines Project (The CCA·CFCREAB-CPG)

Insurance Industry Guidelines
A Chiro.Org collection

This section defines terminology, outlines "accepted (and unaccepted) diagnostic tests" in Personal Injury, and offers you access to Allstate's "confidential" Employee Training Manual.

Low Back Pain Guidelines from Around the World
A Chiro.Org collection

A new addition is the Danish Institute's Low Back Pain Guidelines, available in HTML or Adobe Acrobat. This section also includes recommendations from the California Industrial Medical Council, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the 1994 AHCPR guides, the "Mercy Conference Document", and the New Zealand "Psychosocial Yellow Flags" Page

Musculoskeletal Pain Guidelines
A Chiro.Org collection

Review these recent guidelines.

Neck Disorder Guidelines from Around the World
A Chiro.Org collection

This newly updated page includes all the combined guidelines for Neck Disorders (including both Whiplash-associated Disorders AND Neck Disorders not due to whiplash) into a single unified source page.   This page also includes 6 tables, generously donated by Arthur Croft, D.C., from his text Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/ Deceleration Syndrome.   It also includes guidelines from the California Industrial Medical Council.
You may also want to visit our Whiplash Page and our Chronic Neck Pain Page

Noninvasive Nonpharmacological Treatment for Chronic Pain:
A Systematic Review Update

Comparative Effectiveness Review Number 227
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2020)

Trials identified subsequent to the earlier report largely support previous findings, namely that exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, CBT, mindfulness practices, massage, and mind-body practices most consistently improve function and/or pain beyond the course of therapy for specific chronic pain conditions. Additional research, including comparisons with pharmacological and other active controls, on effects beyond the immediate post-treatment period is needed, particularly for conditions other than low back pain.

Pediatric Care Guidelines
A Chiro.Org collection

This new page contains all the collected pediatric guidelines for the care of children.

Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Guidelines
for the Chiropractic Profession

A Chiro.Org collection

From the Council on Chiropractic Physiological Therapeutics and Rehabilitation

Radiology Guidelines
A Chiro.Org collection

Review this selection of articles and guidelines from our Radiology Section

State and National Guidelines for Chiropractic Practice
A Chiro.Org collection

Review the International Chiropractors Association (ICA) and Canadian guides for care, documentation, and outcome assessments.

Subluxation–based Guidelines
A Chiro.Org collection

Includes Guidelines from the International Chiropractors Association (ICA) and the Council on Chiropractic Practice (CCP) regarding Instrumentation, Radiographic and other Imaging, Clinical Impression and Assessment, Reassessment and Outcome Assessment, Modes of Adjustive Care, Duration of Care for Correction of Vertebral Subluxation, and Chiropractic Care for Children.

Workers Compensation Guidelines (California)
A Chiro.Org collection

This section defines California's recommendations for Neuromusculoskeletal, Low Back, Neck and Shoulder complaints.

AHCPR/AHRQ Guidelines Access
The original Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) has now evolved into Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ).

Chiro.Org's Documentation Section
A Chiro.Org collection

This section contains documentation recommendations from State and National associations.

Documentation Recommendations for:

Clinical Impression and Diagnosis

   Initial Exam

   Outcome Assessment

   Record Keeping


Articles about Guidelines

The Treatment of Neck Pain-Associated Disorders and
Whiplash-Associated Disorders: A Clinical
Practice Guideline

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2016 (Oct); 39 (8): 523–564 ~ FULL TEXT

The objective was to develop a clinical practice guideline on the management of neck pain-associated disorders (NADs) and whiplash-associated disorders (WADs).
This guideline replaces 2 prior chiropractic guidelines on NADs and WADs.

Management of Neck Pain and Associated Disorders:
A Clinical Practice Guideline from the Ontario Protocol
for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration

European Spine Journal 2016 (Jul); 25 (7): 2000–2022 ~ FULL TEXT

This guideline is based on recent systematic reviews of high-quality studies. A multidisciplinary expert panel considered the evidence of effectiveness, safety, cost-effectiveness, societal and ethical values, and patient experiences (obtained from qualitative research) when formulating recommendations. Target audience includes clinicians; target population is adults with grades I-III NAD <6 months duration.

Adherence to Clinical Practice Guidelines Among Three
Primary Contact Professions: A Best Evidence
Synthesis of the Literature for the Management
of Acute and Subacute Low Back Pain

J Can Chiropr Assoc 2014 (Sept); 58(3): 220–237 ~ FULL TEXT

To determine adherence to clinical practice guidelines in the medical, physiotherapy and chiropractic professions for acute and subacute mechanical low back pain through best-evidence synthesis of the healthcare literature. Of the three professions examined, 73% of chiropractors adhered to current clinical practice guidelines, followed by physiotherapists (62%) and then medical practitioners (52%).

The Clinical Practice Guideline Initiative: A Joint
Collaboration Designed to Improve the Quality of
Care Delivered by Doctors of Chiropractic

J Can Chiropr Assoc 2013 (Dec); 57 (4): 279–284 ~ FULL TEXT

The overall purpose is to develop evidence-based Clinical Practice Guidelines and to facilitate the utilization of these and existing guidelines among chiropractors. Further, it aims to enhance academic, clinical and research partnerships to help close the gap between research knowledge and its implementation in clinical practice in order to improve health outcomes.

Knowledge Transfer Within the Canadian Chiropractic Community

Part 1: Understanding Evidence-Practice Gaps
J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2013 (Jun); 57 (2): 111–115 ~ FULL TEXT

This two-part commentary aims to provide a basic understanding of knowledge translation (KT), how KT is currently integrated in the chiropractic community and our view of how to improve KT in our profession. Part 1 presents an overview of KT and discusses some of the common barriers to successful KT within the chiropractic profession. Part 2 will suggest strategies to mitigate these barriers and reduce the evidence-practice gap for both the profession at large and for practicing clinicians.

Part 2: Narrowing the Evidence-Practice Gap
J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2014 (Sep); 58 (3): 206–214 ~ FULL TEXT

This two-part commentary aims to provide clinicians with a basic understanding of knowledge translation (KT), a term that is often used interchangeably with phrases such as knowledge transfer, translational research, knowledge mobilization, and knowledge exchange. [1] Knowledge translation, also known as the science of implementation, is increasingly recognized as a critical element in improving healthcare delivery and aligning the use of research knowledge with clinical practice. [2] The focus of our commentary relates to how these KT processes link with evidence-based chiropractic care.

Developing Clinical Practice Guidelines: Reviewing, Reporting,
and Publishing Guidelines; Updating Guidelines; and the Emerging
Issues of Enhancing Guideline Implementability and Accounting
for Comorbid Conditions in Guideline Development

Implementation Science 2012 (Jul 4); 7: 62 ~ FULL TEXT

Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve health care. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearing houses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this third paper we discuss the issues of: reviewing, reporting, and publishing guidelines; updating guidelines; and the two emerging issues of enhancing guideline implementability and how guideline developers should approach dealing with the issue of patients who will be the subject of guidelines having co-morbid conditions.

An Updated Overview of Clinical Guidelines for the Management
of Non-specific Low Back Pain in Primary Care

European Spine Journal 2010 (Dec); 19 (12): 2075–2094 ~ FULL TEXT

This updated review includes national clinical guidelines from 13 countries and 2 international clinical guidelines from Europe published from 2000 until 2008. The content of the guidelines appeared to be quite similar regarding the diagnostic classification (diagnostic triage) and the use of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Consistent features for acute low back pain were the early and gradual activation of patients, the discouragement of prescribed bed rest and the recognition of psychosocial factors as risk factors for chronicity.

Rigorous Development Does Not Ensure That Guidelines
are Acceptable to a Panel of Knowledgeable Providers

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 (Jan); 23 (1): 37–44

Despite very rigorous development methods compared with guidelines assessed in prior studies, experts felt that these guidelines omitted common clinical situations and contained much content of uncertain validity. Guideline acceptability should be independently and formally evaluated before dissemination.

Chiropractic Clinical Practice Guideline:
Evidence-based Treatment of Adult Neck Pain
Not Due to Whiplash

J Canadian Chiro Assoc 2005 (Sep); 49 (3): 158–209 ~ FULL TEXT

Researchers worked with the Canadian Chiropractic Association, the Canadian Federation of Chiropractic Regulatory Boards, the Clinical Practice Guidelines Development Initiative, and the Guidelines Development Committee (GDC) to provide an evidence-based clinical practice guideline for the chiropractic cervical treatment of adults with acute or chronic neck pain not due to whiplash.

Evidence-Based Guidelines for the Chiropractic Treatment
of Adults With Headache

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011 (Jun); 34 (5): 274–289 ~ FULL TEXT

Evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches. The type, frequency, dosage, and duration of treatment(s) should be based on guideline recommendations, clinical experience, and findings. Evidence for the use of spinal manipulation as an isolated intervention for patients with tension-type headache remains equivocal.

GRADE: An Emerging Consensus on Rating Quality of
Evidence and Strength of Recommendations

British Medical Journal 2008 (Apr 26); 336 (7650): 924–926 ~ FULL TEXT

Guidelines are inconsistent in how they rate the quality of evidence and the strength of recommendations. This article explores the advantages of the GRADE system, which is increasingly being adopted by organisations worldwide

Evaluation of Clinical Practice Guidelines in Chiropractic
Care: A Comparison of North American Guideline Reports

Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Assoc 2001 (Sep); 45 (3): 141–153 ~ FULL TEXT

In the past two decades, clinical guidelines have become practical tools that assist clinicians, policy makers and insurers make informed decisions about the clinical and administrative management of patients. The popularity of these tools has increased so rapidly that clinicians now face the dilemma of having to choose from a plethora of documents of varying quality that were developed by various scientific, professional, political and commercial parties. In this context, a key challenge for the users of clinical practice guidelines is to determine whether their recommendations are valid, useful, based on the best available evidence and developed with sound scientific methodology.

Evidence-based Clinical Guidelines Submitted to the
Australian National Health and Medical Research
Council for the Management of Acute Low
Back Pain: A Critical Review

J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2001 (Feb); 24 (2): 131–139 ~ FULL TEXT

Moves are afoot in Australia to publish Evidence-Based Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Acute Low Back Pain.1 A draft has been prepared by Professor Nikolai Bogduk of the University of Newcastle and the Newcastle Bone and Joint Institute, New South Wales. Bogduk has made a gallant attempt to address the issue of acute low back pain, but the document is seriously flawed in many respects. This is surprising and alarming, given the author's prominence in the international spine community.
  You will also enjoy this response from Anthony L. Rosner, PhD, research director for FCER.

Developing Clinical Guidelines
British Medical Journal 1999 (Feb 27); 318: 593–596 ~ FULL TEXT

The methods of guideline development should ensure that treating patients according to the guidelines will achieve the outcomes that are desired. This article presents a combination of the literature about guideline development and the results of our combined experience in guideline development in North America and Britain. It considers the five steps in the initial development of an evidence based guideline

Chiropractic Care for Common Industrial Low Back Conditions
Chiropractic Technique 1993 (Aug); 5 (3): 119–125 ~ FULL TEXT

This is the first guideline I have seen which actually states the number of visits which may be appropriate for a variety of common low back conditions.   I have used these "care plans" for years, presenting them to third party's as a "working diagnosis" care plan, which need ongoing "fine tuning" during patient care. Check out this Chiropractic Technique article, and the attached care plans, which have been released exclusively to Chiro.Org by the National College of Chiropractic. Thanks, Dana!

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