Does Manipulation Of Your Back Contribute To A Stroke?

Although chiropractic manipulation has been proved to be effective in back pain, there has been much debate over the effectiveness of this method for neck pain and even more “high velocity” thrusts for neck adjustment has resulted in a severe stroke in some patients according to this article in the Huffington Post. This answer to “can a stroke be caused by manipulating your spine” is certainly true.Fast movement of the neck can sometimes lead to the vertebral arteries tearing away causing blood clots, a stroke, and permanent disability. The adverse effects of spinal manipulation is not ruled out where patients suffer from a headache, neck pain, and dizziness, and in the rarest of cases, could lead to fatal brain stroke. Healthy and young adults are more prone to serious side effects, and no predictions can be made as to who will be the victim of spinal manipulation. To check on the side effects, the sufferer needs to be patient for up to 12 weeks to see whether the neck pain dies down or not. Another thing is to avoid “high velocity” thrusts and stop the spinal manipulation as soon as unwarranted side effects start affecting the physique.



Is Spinal Manipulation Leading To Health Problems?

spinal manipulation

Many people are often unsure about what spinal manipulation actually is

The word “stroke” conjures images of a bolt out of the blue. No one ever imagines that they will have a stroke, much less that it might happen as a result of a chiropractic treatment for neck pain — but it does. Just ask Sandra Nette, a woman from Edmonton, Canada who was seeing her chiropractor for “preventive” treatment. According to a recent news story, she suffered a severe brainstem stroke as a result of a neck adjustment by her chiropractor.


Chiropractors, osteopaths, and physical therapists commonly use spinal manipulation. There are two primary types of spinal manipulation: the “low-velocity” adjustment, or the “high-velocity” thrust, which rapidly adjusts joints. Chiropractors believe that these adjustments reposition the joints, nerves and spinal cord, relieving pain and improving spinal health. Unfortunately, spinal manipulation of the neck remains controversial with physicians, and chiropractors are unable to agree upon its effectiveness. To date, carefully performed studies have shown some benefit in the treatment of low-back pain, but do not show any convincing evidence that it treats neck pain.


When does a chiropractic treatment go wrong — which part of the treatment causes the stroke? The evidence suggests that in rare cases, the rapid movement of the neck can tear the vertebral artery and cause what is called a dissection. The lining of the artery tears away from its wall, causing a blood clot to form. Blood can then no longer reach the all-important brainstem, causing a severe stroke and leaving the majority of patients with permanent disabilities.


Are You at Risk?


A study by Ernst and another by Haldeman and his colleagues looked at a large series of brainstem strokes, including those caused by spinal manipulation or trauma. Some type of “adverse effect” was not uncommon after manipulation of the neck. Headaches, dizziness and neck pain were the most common side effects. For the most part these side effects were benign and self-limiting, although a small number of people did experience a severe stroke and death.


Although one can argue that strokes caused by spinal manipulation are very rare, I suggest looking at the risk/benefit ratio. You may be going in to see the chiropractor for a nagging headache or annoying neck pain, but you are being exposed to a treatment that has potentially severe side effects. The data suggests that strokes and serious side effects are more likely to occur in young, healthy adults, making it difficult to predict precisely which of these individuals will have a serious side effect. Sandra Nette claimed she was going to the chiropractor for “preventive” use of manipulation, but ended up with a serious lifelong disability.


What Should You Do?


“Wait,” you may say. “Dr.Senelick is a medical doctor (M.D.), and he is obviously biased against chiropractors.” Not so. But it is true that the lack of cooperation between medical doctors and chiropractors has not helped the deficiency of high-quality scientific studies on cervical (neck) manipulation. While this cooperation may never happen, there are some common-sense approaches that we can all agree upon.


Most neck and back pain will go away on its own within six to 12 weeks. We perform far too many expensive tests and therapies on conditions that are self-limited. It seems we have little tolerance and patience for “waiting things out.” So, give it time.


Avoid high-thrust manipulation of your neck. If you go to a chiropractor, tell him that you do not want “high-velocity” manipulation. He may claim that it is safe and that a causal relationship between manipulation and stroke has not been proven. Why take a chance? The risk/benefit ratio just doesn’t make sense.


Ask your chiropractor or physician for an informed consent or list of side effects before you agree to manipulation.


If you agree to manipulation and develop any worsening or new symptoms during the treatment, insist that they stop immediately. A RAND Corporation study reported some cases where the patients continued to get treatment despite having symptoms of a stroke.


Read more


There have been instances of a patient suffering with a stroke due to a high velocity thrust during spinal and neck manipulation. There are chances of severe side effects from chiropractic treatment, which include tearing of the vertebral arteries to cause a stroke. It is advisable to stop the treatment as soon as side effects begin to show without the pain subsiding up to 12 weeks later, which is the incubation period. There is truth in whether chiropractic or physio may contribute to the reasons why you may have a stroke. A stroke of luck is getting relief from neck pain, but other strokes are debilitating and sometimes fatal.



American Heart Association Stroke Awareness Luncheon The Colony Hotel Palm Beach, Florida.



Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Director, reports on the incidence of chiropractic stroke, sharing his insights as a neurosurgeon with viewers





lower back pain



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