Falls are a major health concern for older adults. They are a significant cause of death, injury and loss of quality of life and they result in considerable healthcare costs. There are a number of risk factors for falling including medication use, environmental hazards, poor vision, lower extremity impairments and balance and gait impairments. Of particular interest to the chiropractic profession is the relationship between dysfunction of the spine and risk of falling. 

Chiropractors are concerned with a functional impairment in the spine called vertebral subluxation. It is thought that vertebral subluxation may affect the nervous system in a way that leads to improper function and coordination in vital areas and systems of the brain and brainstem that are involved in maintaining balance. Dysfunction within these areas or systems can potentially lead to an increased risk of falling. If chiropractic care can lead to an improvement in the function of the spine then it may also reduce the risk of an individual falling. There is currently little to no published data of falls history, falls risk, or balance profiles of elderly chiropractic patients 

It is not known if elderly chiropractic patients are representative of the wider community in these areas or if they are at an even greater risk of falling. By better understanding the nature of problems associated with patients that present to their offices it is hoped that this study will help to empower chiropractors to have a primary role in detection of falls risk and engage in falls prevention. 

This study was an observational study that aimed to provide and compare the falls risk profiles of community dwelling older adults who either: 

  • Do not attend a chiropractor 
  • Are new chiropractic patients 

The participants were assessed on a single occasion. Relevant health and falls history information were then recorded and the participants were asked to complete questionnaires to establish their balance confidence, quality of life, and disability related to neck pain. They were then assessed using a functional test that is an established falls risk predictor. The final assessment was conducted using a portable balance platform. This computerised system assesses an individual’s postural stability which is a good way of identifying people at risk of falling. 

This data showed the falls risk profile of elderly people in Australasia who present to chiropractors differs from non-chiropractic patients. This valuable data will also help plan for future studies that will investigate the effect of chiropractic care on falls risk. By including the balance platform, we will be able to tell how well it matches other established scales that are used to predict future falls. 

Grant Value: $33,529.26
Chief Investigator: Dr Kelly Holt – New Zealand College of Chiropractic
Status: Complete




  • Chiropractors’ Association of Australia Scientific Symposium November 2009. Melbourne, Australia
    Holt KR, Noone P, Short K, Haavik Taylor H. (2009). Falls risk profile of elderly chiropractic patients.
  • LifeSource Octagon Conference Event April 2011. Atlanta, Georgia, USA
    Haavik H. Understanding research efforts and Subluxation. Invited speaker Contemporary Scientific Paradigms; A new model for Subluxation.
  • Chiropractic Association of Australia’s National Development Forum October 2011. Hobart, Australia
    Haavik H. How to effectively include science in your chiropractic toolbox (four 1 ½ hour sessions). The keynote speaker
  • Chiropractic Association of Australia Victoria April 2011. Melbourne, Australia
    Haavik H. Inspiring Change. Keynote speaker Inspiring Change Conference.
  • World Congress of Chiropractic Students Conference April 2011. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Haavik H. The science of chiropractic.
  • New Zealand Chiropractic Association Annual General Meeting May 2009. Auckland, New Zealand
    Holt K. Falls Risk Profile of Elderly Chiropractic Patients.
  • New Zealand Chiropractic Association Annual General Meeting May 2007. Christchurch, New Zealand
    Holt K. Research at the NZCC