Chiropractic Manipulation May Increase Risk of Stroke

Posted by Hilary Young on July 17, 2013

Chiropractic Manipulation May Increase Risk of Stroke

According to an article published in the Guardian, there have been well over 500 documented cases of patients suffering from a stroke after having their neck manipulated by a chiropractor. “What seems to happen is that certain manipulations carried out by chiropractors - particularly those that involve forceful rotation of the neck to one side - may over-stretch an artery that runs along the spine. If that happens this vessel can dissect or disintegrate, resulting in a blockage of blood flow to the brain, ie. a stroke.” Past studies have suggested that chiropractic neck movements can tear vertebral arteries leading into the brain and ultimately causing a stroke. A 2003 study by researchers at the University of California, compared 51 patients at UCSF and Stanford University who suffered arterial tears and strokes or mini-strokes with 100 control patients who suffered strokes from other causes. All of the patients were asked about risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and whether or not they had received chiropractic treatment in the month leading up to their strokes. Those with arterial tears were 6 times more likely to have been recently treated by a chiropractor. Out of the 7 subjects with arterial tears who had received chiropractic spinal manipulation, 4 of them reported increased pain after treatment, while 2 of them suffered strokes within seconds of treatment. In a study published by the Division of Neurological Surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, the team of Neurosurgeons concluded that: “Chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine can produce dissections involving the cervical and cranial segments of the vertebral and carotid arteries. These injuries can be severe, requiring endovascular stenting and cranial surgery. In this patient series, a significant percentage (31%, 4/13) of patients were left permanently disabled or died as a result of their arterial injuries.” So what are good alternatives to fixing neck pain?

  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Medication

Regardless of what you choose to do for chronic pain, you should always check with your physician before trying something new.  


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