Chiropractic and Stroke Risk: The Facts

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You may have heard that there is a risk of suffering a stroke by receiving a chiropractic adjustment to your neck. Not only has this been shown to be false in scientific studies, but throughout our careers and countless contacts with Doctors of Chiropractic, we have never met another chiropractor who has had a personal experience of causing a stroke to a patient of theirs.

What has been made clear is that, on occasion, a patient will consult a doctor of chiropractic while they are unknowingly beginning to have symptoms of an impending stroke.  Their symptoms usually include a headache, for which they are seeking care that day.  The doctor has the responsibility to determine the origin of the headache pain and triage the patient to the appropriate care facility.  Chiropractic care, in this instance, is not appropriate.  A chiropractor is trained to make this determination.

Please read the following article if you have further interest.

Study: Chiropractic Does Not Increase Risk of Stroke

A new study finds there is no evidence of excess risk of stroke following chiropractic spinal manipulation, according to a February 2008 report in the journal Spine. In the study, researchers noted that patients are no more likely to suffer a stroke following chiropractic treatment than they would after visiting their family doctor’s office (MD). The study goes on to say that any observed association between a vertebrobasilar artery (VBA) stroke and chiropractic manipulation is likely due to patients with an undiagnosed vertebral artery dissection seeking care for neck pain and headache before their stroke. “This may prove to be one of the most important and significant studies in the profession’s history,” said ACA President Glenn Manceaux, DC. “The results of this study confirm that chiropractic manipulation is a safe and appropriate course of treatment.” The issue of stroke being associated with a chiropractic neck adjustment focuses around the very rare occurrence of a tear to the vertebral artery as it passes through the sides of the upper cervical vertebrae and into the base of the skull.  An injury to the arterial wall may lead to the formation of a blood clot, which can break free and travel upward until it lodges in one of the smaller blood vessels in the base of the brain, blocking circulation.

“…the Canadian Medical Association Journal found there is only a one-in-5.85-million risk that a chiropractic neck adjustment will be associated with a subsequent CAD and stroke.”

There are many reports in the [research] literature of cervical artery dissections (CADs) occurring after everyday activities that most people would consider nontraumatic, such as turning the head when driving, having your hair washed at a beauty salon, or sleeping on your stomach. A research paper published in 2001 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found there is only a one-in-5.85-million risk that a chiropractic neck adjustment will be associated with a subsequent CAD and stroke. In this new study, the Canadian team looked at nine years of data in Ontario, and found that only 818 patients with a VBA stroke were reported among a population of some 11.5 million people. Unlike a previous study in 2001 that investigated the relationship between chiropractic visits and vertebral artery stroke, researchers in this study also studied visits to family doctors that preceded this kind of stroke. According to the study’s authors, “Because the association between chiropractic visits and VBA stroke is not greater than the association between PCP (primary care physician) visits and VBA stroke, there is no excess risk of VBA stroke from chiropractic care.” Click here to access a full-text copy of the study: NO RISK

“I have been a patient for several years. I am very happy with the treatment I have received. I appreciate their gentleness, their willingness to educate, their health care philosophy and the fact that they are willing to meet you where you are at in terms of your personal health and priorities.”

Judy S. of Minnetonka

If you remain uncomfortable with the prospect of having your neck adjusted by a chiropractor, be assured that at Levin and Chellen Chiropractic we have adjusting techniques that would allow you to be totally relaxed and fearless while receiving your neck care.  Actually, our patients often refer others to us who have expressed their concerns to them about past chiropractic care they felt may be too aggressive. They are relieved to find us to be among the gentlest, yet most effective practitioners they have ever had.

A favorite adjusting technique of our patients is called the Activator Adjusting Technique. Although the other techniques we use are completely safe and effective, this technique requires no manual handling of the neck in a manner which makes some people feel nervous. Please share all your concerns with us and we will do our best to accommodate your wishes. To learn more about Activator Technique, go to  Activator Methods International

Stroke Warning Signs

While there are no standard screening procedures to identify patients with neck pain who are also at risk of a VBA stroke, health care providers should be aware of the following stroke warning:

  • Sudden difficulty speaking (slurred speech)
  • Sudden difficulty understanding what people are saying
  • Sudden onset of confusion or altered mental status, such as loss of consciousness, or recognizing people who should be familiar
  • Sudden numbness or tingling on one side the face or body, or both
  • Sudden onset of dizziness or unsteadiness, loss of balance or coordination, or both
  • Sudden difficulty walking or standing upright
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden severe unexplained upper neck pain. Sudden trouble with vision or sight

“I see Dr. Chellen and he is so amazing. My daughter is never scared to go in there and he’s extremely gentle for children as well as grown-ups.”

Kristi, Minnetonka

chiropractic is safe; no stroke risk