Getting your neck adjusted by a chiropractor may be associated with an increased risk of stroke. A scientific statement warning of this risk was released last year by the American Heart Association.
Many times, chiropractors or osteopathic doctors will use energetic thrusts while manipulating the neck. The forceful rotations may cause a small tear in the neck’s artery walls. Such a tear can result in stroke if a blood clot forms at the site and later breaks free—blocking a blood vessel in the brain.
Tears in the neck’s artery walls could have a number of causes. According to Web MD, these are typically associated with hyperextension of the neck. Whiplash, sporting events, and even violent coughing have bene known to attribute to neck artery tears.
Dr. Jose Biller of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine explained in his statement, “The techniques for cervical manipulation, even though they vary among health professionals, include a rotation of the neck and sometimes a forceful thrust.”
Artery wall injuries are a significant cause of stroke in younger and middle-aged adults. Eight to twenty-five percent of stroke cases in patients younger than 45 are believed to be brought on by arterial wall tears in the neck.
Jeremy Youngblood’s Fatal Stroke
Just last year, 30-year-old Jeremy Youngblood lost his life due to a stroke he had at the chiropractor’s office. According to Jeremy’s family, no one in the chiropractor’s office called 911. Instead, they called Jeremy’s father, Lynn, and asked him to pick up his son.
The family carried Jeremy from the table and brought him to the emergency room themselves. After 6 hours, Jeremy was flown to Oklahoma City for emergency treatment. He passed away in the hospital.
Jeremy died of acute cerebellar infarction due to manipulation of the neck.
Is Every Chiropractic Patient At Risk?
According to Web MD, the relationship between neck manipulation and stroke is difficult to evaluate. Dr. Keith Overland, former president of the American Chiropractic Association argued that there are several factors that can contribute to stroke. Overland went on to add that neck manipulation is associated with 1 death per million people due to cervical artery tears. Comparatively, prescription drugs such as NSAIDs cause 153 deaths per million people, and narcotic medications cause 53 deaths per million.
The chiropractic community, Overland acknowledged, has known about the correlation between neck manipulation and stroke for about five years. However, he went on to say that Dr. Biller’s statement may create fears in patients—potentially leading them to choose a riskier option for their neck pain or headache. Overland and Biller disagree on whether patients with no other risk factors for stroke should be told of the potential risk.
“If someone came in from playing basketball and they have pulled a muscle in their neck, but are otherwise perfectly healthy, we don’t see a relationship or risk there,” said Overland.
The two doctors did agree to the fact that chiropractors should always discuss the potential stroke risk of neck manipulation to patients who have other risk factors. Cardiovascular disease, family history of stroke, and severe headaches are the most common.
Should You Avoid The Chiropractor?
The bottom line is that chiropractic care, like powerful prescription drugs, should be assessed based on the particular patient’s circumstances. Fatalities from stroke caused by chiropractic care are happening, and they are happening in young and middle-aged adults. However, some alternatives to chiropractic care such as prescription drugs, may be just as risky, if not riskier. So it is definitely a case by case basis.
Visiting a chiropractor is an important decision. If you are considering chiropractic care, be sure to talk it over with your general practitioner, as well as discussing potential side effects with your chiropractor.
If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke after being under the care of a chiropractor for neck manipulation, we are here to help. Learn more about the Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers Experience, or contact us at 314-444-4444 for a free, confidential consultation.