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Don’t Let A Chiropractor Crack Your Neck

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 16, 2009

Not unless you want to risk stroke and/or death:

Stroke from chiropractic neck manipulation occurs when an artery to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked as a result of being stretched. The injury often results from extreme rotation in which the practitioner’s hands are placed on the patient’s head in order to rotate the cervical spine by rotating the head [1]. The vertebral artery, which is shown in the picture to the right, is vulnerable because it winds around the topmost cervical vertebra (atlas) to enter the skull, so that any abrupt rotation may stretch the artery and tear its delicate lining. The anatomical problem is illustrated on page 7 of The Chiropractic Report, July 1999. A blood clot formed over the injured area may subsequently be dislodged and block a smaller artery that supplies the brain. Less frequently, the vessel may be blocked by blood that collects in the vessel wall at the site of the dissection [2].

Chiropractors would like you to believe that the incidence of stroke following neck manipulation is extremely small. Speculations exist that the odds of a serious complication due to neck manipulation are somewhere between one in 40,000 and one in 10 million manipulations. No one really knows, however, because (a) there has been little systematic study of its frequency; (b) the largest malpractice insurers won’t reveal how many cases they know about; and (c) a large majority of cases that medical doctors see are not reported in scientific journals.

Click on the link for more. You’re better off seeing a licensed massage therapist or a doctor who specializes in sports medicine.

11 Responses to “Don’t Let A Chiropractor Crack Your Neck”

  1. Artichoker said

    Phonenix Wowen is apparently unaware of the current research. You are actually more at risk of suffering a stroke by visiting your PCP according to this study.

    http://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2008/02151/Risk_of_Vertebrobasilar_Stroke_and_Chiropractic.19.aspx

    And, chiropractic manipulation is one of the best modalities for neck pain.
    http://www.denvercoloradochiropractic.com/NorthDenverNews.html

    And, yhe public is ver satisfied with chiropractors
    watch the video.
    http://www.denvercoloradochiropractic.com

  2. RobertaCA said

    In 1980 I had a car accident that fractured the 1st vertebrea. I survived without complications. But after 20 years I was having problems with left arm going numb, headaches. Did the Massage therapies and rehabilitation, neck stretches and stuff. In 1995 I met a doctor in Apple Valley, MN that did Atlas Orthogonal technic. It changed my life. I would never let anybody get near my neck or manual adjust it. That scared me to the devil. This procedure is so precise it is awesome. No pain, no jarring and no twisting of the neck. Maybe you can do a blog on this particular pocedure. I was forntunate to find another Chiropractor down in Texas that does the same procedure. Dr. Kevin Berg has a clinic in Bloomington, MN now. Maybe give him a call and discuss this procedure with him. No change of a stroke with his method.
    Roberta

  3. My very healthy, physically-fit 41 y-o brother saw a chiropractor for a stiff neck. His 2nd visit the D.C. explained that he would adjust his cervical vertebrae, saying it would be very uncomfortable for a brief moment. My brother described the pain as gut-wrenching. He could not hold back the agony, wailing and moaning at the top of his lungs. (This is a man who broke his elbow on a dirt bike and drove it off the trail and back to the trucks.) He could not stand any touch but had to be assisted to sit upright and then supported as he walked to a chair across the exam room. Violent vomiting immediately followed. Instead of calling 911, the staff called my brother’s wife. Finally she insisted they call 911. An ambulance ride and 2 weeks in the hospital later, my brother is still recovering from a 1/2 inch interior perforation to his carotid and vertebral arteries. He suffered a stroke in his cerebellum. His cardiac rhythm was permanently affected, and he now has a pacemaker. He still has vision loss, extreme senstivity to light and colors, and serious balance problems. He survived, against the hospital doctor’s prognosis.

    I was a firm believer in the efficacy of a chiropractor’s skills and care. I had seen one many times in my life. I will never allow anyone – regardless of their “training” or “certification” or “professional title or designation” – crack a single joint in my body, particularly my neck or back. The risk is simply not worth the temporary relief. Even while seeing my own chiropractor, I always experienced the most benefits from electrical stimulus therapy, ultrasound therapy and massage.

    Since my brother’s injury and stroke, I have seen that chiropractors are very defensive and unwilling to admit this is a significant risk. This makes me doubt the conscience of the entire profession. Never did the chiropractor tell my brother there was a risk of stroke or any serious injury. Never has a chiropractor told me there was a risk of any injury as a result of any adjustment I received. Why is this?

    • “Since my brother’s injury and stroke, I have seen that chiropractors are very defensive and unwilling to admit this is a significant risk. This makes me doubt the conscience of the entire profession. Never did the chiropractor tell my brother there was a risk of stroke or any serious injury. Never has a chiropractor told me there was a risk of any injury as a result of any adjustment I received. Why is this?”

      I wish I knew, too, Keri. But they will certainly swarm any website that dares suggest there might be anything wrong with the practice.

      So, since they’re here, I might as well post this link:

      Christa Heck lay crumpled on her right side in the front seat of her SUV, staring helplessly at the dashboard. She tried to right herself, but her body wouldn’t obey her brain: One arm was limp, the other floundering uncontrollably. Ten minutes earlier, she’d been at her chiropractor’s office for a routine follow-up. But something had obviously gone wrong. Lying virtually paralyzed across her passenger seat, “all I could do was pray someone would help me,” she recalls. “I thought I was going to die.”

      Heck, a 43-year-old mother of four from Mahopac, New York, had been seeing a chiropractor on and off for 20 years to treat headaches and lower-back pain. A pharmaceutical representative, she spent her days driving to sales calls and her nights working long hours at the computer. A few visits to adjust her back and cervical spine—the bones that run up through the neck—always relieved the strain. “I had the impression that it was good for health maintenance,” she says. “Not once had I been told there were risks involved.”

      […]

      According to Heck’s medical records, the chiropractor’s neck adjustment left a 4.5-centimeter tear in her left vertebral artery, one of four pathways that control blood flow to the brain (the others are the right vertebral artery and the left and right carotid arteries). Extreme or abrupt twisting of the neck can damage the inner layer of these arteries, creating a blood clot. If the clot travels north, it can cut off blood flow to part of the brain—the definition of a stroke. In fact, Dr. Kazmi believes Heck had two strokes, one the day after her first neck adjustment, and another immediately following her second. “The damage was done after the first manipulation, then she started throwing clots,” he says.”

      And just in case somebody tries to blow off Ms. Heck’s story as some sort of freakishly rare phenomenon, here’s what some neurologists had to say about neck-cracking back in 2008:

      Manual cervical spine manipulations have been reported to result in cerebrovascular insults, primarily due to dissection of the vertebral artery [24]. These patients usually present symptoms and signs of sudden neck pain onset and/or vertebrobasilar ischaemia. The interval between chiropractic manipulation and symptom onset is variable; while approximately half of the patients have an acute onset during or immediately after manipulation, some patients present to the hospital several hours or even several days after the manipulation [13,25,26,27,28,29]. Rossetti et al. [30] described 6 patients with artery dissections (5 vertebral artery dissections and 1 carotid artery dissection combined with vertebral artery dissection) after neck manipulation. The interval between chiropractic manipulation and symptom onset ranged from 10 to >30 h.

      In 1934, a medical legal abstract first noted cerebrovascular accidents after cervical spine manipulation [31]. An association between stroke and cervical manipulation has been reported with increasing frequency, and each new report seems to reignite debate between neurologists and chiropractors [32].

      The principal involvement of the vertebral artery could be due to the anatomy of this artery which may suffer torsion injury as it curves around the atlas (fig. 1). This artery changes its direction from a vertical to a horizontal path and is therefore very likely susceptible to injury from rotation and extension [33]. The proximity of the vertebral artery to the C1 and C2 vertebral bodies may play a crucial role in the development of dissection. The V1 and V3 segments of the vertebral artery are the most mobile. This may be the reason why the V3 segment is a frequent site of dissection, although dissection can occur in any segment of the artery [34] (fig. 2).

  4. […] Don’t Let A Chiropractor Crack Your Neck […]

  5. wendell said

    “In first world countries, sudden infant death (SID) is the most common cause of death during the first 12 months of postnatal life.” Wow, put those 3 words together and you stir up a lot of emotion. Here’s a study performed in hopes of identifying the cause of and a possible solution to sudden infant death.

  6. If that is the case try to find a chiropractic clinic that has a licensed practitioner, with that you don’t have to be afraid. Because they know what they are doing and they are trained professionals.

  7. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States,thanks for such a nice post.This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best blogger I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

  8. It is always heart wrenching to hear stories of of people that have adverse effects from chiropractic care, but there is some need of perspective.

    1. Everyone is told, and they sign an informed consent paper saying they where. While not legally required to inform patients, because the risk is that minimal, most malpractice carriers for chiropractors require that you do to. The “I was never told” just isn’t true.

    2. The risk of stroke amongst the general public is actually higher that than of going to a chiropractor. http://www.strokeassociation.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1033

    3. The risk for any treatment, drug, and surgery can be substantial even if the relative incident rate is small. Many people will denounce Chiropractic treatment because there is a risk of stroke in as little as 1 in every 40,000 (0.005%), but at the same time berate a parents for not vaccinating their child with MMR because it carries an approximate 4% chance of febrile seizures or worse. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15265850

    just saying…

    • Charles II said

      That’s the other side of the story, DCC, but I would say it needs its own rebuttal:

      First, the post is directed against a specific procedure, not against the profession. The problem– a failure to quality-control procedures to ensure that they are properly-performed, safe, effective, and optimal– exists in all branches of the health sciences.

      Second, you’re misapplying risk statistics. Those in the general public who are getting strokes are, for the most part, elderly. The cohort of people getting strokes from neck manipulation is much younger. Furthermore, the time period is very different: the general public statistics are measured over the full year, while the statistics for neck manipulations occur within a short time following the patient visit. That’s a factor of 100 in itself.

      Third, you’ve failed to count the rate of the control group in making your comparison on MMR. Five percent of all children have febrile seizures between six months and five years. In other words, you’ve taken the total number of FS in vaccinated children and divided it by the total number of vaccinations, but failed to subtract out FS in unvaccinated children.

      In order to do full risk/benefit, we also have to subtract out the health costs of failing to vaccinate, which includes– in addition to a range of consequences a lot worse than febrile seizures– am increased incidence of FS due to an increase in cases of of mumps, measles, and rubella.

      Furthermore, you describe the consequence of vaccination s FS “or worse”. The “or worse” turns out to be a slight elevation of epilepsy in a subgroup of particularly vulnerable children. You are comparing this to paralysis or worse in chiropractic patients. It’s an inappropriate comparison.

      The data from the MMR vaccination might indicate that children at high risk of FS be spared the vaccination. The data from chiropractic stroke indicate the procedure should be banned: little benefit, substantial risk.

      Finally, informed consent may work as a defense in the courtroom, but we all know that many patients do not fully understand risks when they undertake them. Conscience demands that professionals ensure that benefits genuinely do outweigh risks, and that procedures be replaced as the risks become known. Medicine does require experimentation, and experimentation involves risk. It seems to me, however, that the experimentation for this procedure has been done.

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