Does a chiropractic manipulation of the neck cause strokes in patients? This is a highly studied and debated question in the healthcare community. The short answer to the question does it CAUSE stroke is no. There has never been a study performed that can prove that a neck manipulation has caused a stroke in an otherwise healthy individual. Has there been instances where a patient suffered from a stroke following neck manipulation? Yes, but—according to research, it was not the cause.
These patients typically have underlying damage to either the internal carotid artery or the vertebral artery that has gone un-diagnosed. Those extremely rare and unlucky patients who suffered stroke following a neck treatment, may have just as easily suffered the same fate from turning their head too quickly, or from sitting in a salon chair for an extended amount of time. The issue is not the chiropractic treatment itself, but the overall health of the vertebral or internal carotid arteries. With that said, how do we know that a patient may be at higher risk for a damaged artery? There are certain physical exams that can be performed in attempt to rule out such conditions such as the Wallenberg Test. Taking a thorough health history before treatment is also of the utmost importance If during a health history exam I discover that the patient is 65 years old, with a history of throbbing headaches, has been suffering from moderate to severe hypertension for years, and has a history of stroke in the family, I would make the professional judgement to not manipulate the neck. I would instead use stretching and deep tissue treatments as a safe alternative. As a health care practitioner, I will always err on the side of caution. The statistical chance of a stroke following a chiropractic manipulation of the neck is and will always will be rare, making treatment safer than most medicinal alternatives (opioids) for neck pain.
A few articles I found interesting in my research of the topic can be found with the links below.
If you are experiencing neck pain or headaches, and are wondering if chiropractic care can help you do not hesitate to contact Rochester ChiroTherapy through our website or by phone.