Chiropractic Manipulation of the Neck: Stroke Risk?
By Gary Picariello
I have been to a chiropractor many times for different aches and pains and although I feel I have benefitted in a variety of ways from different chiropractic treatments, one in particular, neck manipulation, seems to get as much bad publicity as good. The question is whether or not it is warranted.
Recent studies by the American Heart Association posit that getting your neck adjusted by a chiropractor or specialist may be associated with an increased risk of stroke.The result of a condition called cervical artery dissection (CD), explains the AHA.
As a result, what can only be described as a "tear" in the arterial wall can occur - causing a stroke - if a blood clot forms and later breaks free to block a blood vessel in the brain.
All Tore Up
Dr. Jose Biller, chair of neurology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine points out that damage (to the arterial wall) can occur as a result of forceful neck rotation, such as you may see with whiplash or participation in rough sports activity.
The common technique for cervical manipulation may include neck rotation followed by forceful movement. The arterial wall injuries mentioned earlier are an important cause of stroke in young and middle-aged adults. According to AHA, the latest statistics account for 8 percent to 25 percent of stroke cases in patients younger than 45.
Cause and Effect
The Aug. 7 online edition of the American Heart Association journal Stroke explains that “Four large studies have established an association between neck manipulation and stroke although the evidence does not prove that the practice can directly cause strokes.”
The medical community feels these findings point out that treatments involving neck manipulation may be associated with stroke, though it cannot be said with certainty that neck manipulation causes strokes. Nonetheless, chiropractors should take the high road and warn patients of the risk. It only makes sense that patients should be informed of this association before undergoing neck manipulation.
Get the word out
The AHA feels that there is a correlation between CD and neck manipulation; although the risk is probably low, CD could result in serious injury. Thus, anyone considering the procedure should be informed of this association before undergoing neck manipulation as a form of chiropractic treatment.