Background: Since its inception the chiropractic profession has been mired in debate regarding its clinical application – specifically surrounding the concept of vertebral subluxation. Despite over 100 years and some effort at developing a research agenda, the factions that embrace vertebral subluxation as a clinical entity warranting epidemiological study continue to be confronted with basic questions regarding the existence, measurement and clinical meaningfulness of vertebral subluxation. These questions form the basis for a proposal to develop a Research Agenda and related program centered on vertebral subluxation in order to elucidate the clinical manifestations of the founding principles and tenets of the chiropractic profession.
Methods: The vertebral subluxation research agenda will involve defining the current state of the science, art and literature base to determine what is known and not known about each research objective. This will allow for the most efficient use of limited resources. The agenda centers on five areas including: operational models, measurement, epidemiology, clinical strategies and health outcomes.
Discussion: In order to accomplish the goals and objectives of the research agenda, a long term project is proposed that includes creating and supporting the next generation of subluxation centered scientific researchers to carry out these projects. The research program will need to identify and continuously update a manifest of research projects directly relevant to the agenda and will need to involve a large segment of subluxation centered groups, organizations, associations, vendors, practitioners and patients. The development and implementation of central data repositories will need to be undertaken and the program and its results will need to be marketed to chiropractors, students, patients, legislators, policy makers and the general public through an integrated campaign.
Conclusion: This research agenda seeks to validate the profession’s focus on the location, analysis and correction of vertebral subluxation and position chiropractic as a vitalistic, scientific, evidence-informed clinical practice. This research is expected to assist the profession in gaining a higher degree of respect, understanding and acceptance in the health care marketplace, the scientific community and among the patients it serves. Current evidence suggests that vertebral subluxation is detrimental to human health and function and as such chiropractors who manage subluxation feel an ethical and moral obligation to screen and educate the public on what it believes is a significant public health threat. To that effect this agenda also includes the marketing of the agenda itself and the results of its research endeavors in an effort to increase utilization of vertebral subluxation screening and management.
Key words:Chiropractic, vertebral subluxation, research agenda, epidemiology, vitalism, evidence informed practice.