The perceived relative safety of thoracic thrust joint manipulation (TTJM) has contributed to a growth in evidence supporting use in practice. Yet adverse events (AE) have been documented following TTJM. Knowledge of current practice is therefore required to support further research.
To investigate TTJM knowledge and pre-TTJM examination across IFOMPT Member Organisations (MO) and Registered Interest Groups (RIG).
An e-survey was designed based on existing evidence and piloted. Eligibility criteria: physiotherapists from member countries of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT) who use TTJM. Recruitment was through IFOMPT networks (May 2018-March 2019). Data analyses included descriptive analyses and content analysis for free text data.
Respondents (n = 363) from 20 countries. Pre-TTJM examination included patient history (22%, n = 81) and physical examination (69%, n = 248). Across presentations (>80% threshold of agreement) contraindications included osteomyelitis, fracture and metastatic disease. Spinal deformity, respiratory disease, serious joint disease and hypermobility achieved >60% agreement as precautions. Consent was obtained by 93% respondents (n = 250). Preferred technique was PA/AP thrust (61%, n = 144). Perception of primary effect was neurophysiological (52%, n = 134), biomechanical (42%, n = 109) and placebo (3%, n = 8). From those who reported AE (n = 100), these included fractures (36%, n = 42) and cord signs/symptoms (6%, n = 7).
Pre-TTJM examination is common, although bias towards physical examination. Differential testing for upper versus lower thoracic spine is limited. Inconsistencies across knowledge of contraindications and precautions, and beliefs for biomechanical effect were found. Findings highlight the importance of high levels of clinical reasoning during patient history for TTJM.

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