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Strokes and Neck Adjustments

Q.  Dr. D, can adjusting your neck cause a stroke?

A.  These days it is so important to educate yourself on the benefits of chiropractic care, especially with the degree of media scrutiny over natural health procedures.  I can say that I am proud to be part of a profession that has been proven to be profoundly safe and effective and always welcome the opportunity to address questions of this nature.

In following, this is a very serious and significant question.  Let me just start by saying that if I thought there was any justified risk associated with neck adjustments I would not be adjusting my kids, wife, parents etc. with the thought that I could do them any harm.  Although this may create a bit of assurance about the topic there is a factual and statistical reasoning behind it.

Whisperings about neck adjustments causing strokes stems from the hypothesis that if an individual has an accumulation of plaque in the vertebral arteries (which pass through the cervical spine), they may become dislodged and create an ischemic cerebral vascular accident (CVA).  Due to the seriousness of consequences that follow a stroke it has naturally encountered a lot of interest and fear.

Again, although this ‘hypothesis’ has been presented there has been no clinical relevance or proof that this actually occurs.

Many people may seek chiropractic care with some of the common precursors and warning signs of stroke already present which can include symptoms of upper back pain, neck pain, and headaches.  Naturally, people dealing with these symptoms may consult their chiropractor, hoping for a resolution of pain.  Many may also consult their MDs and/or other trusted health care providers.  Unfortunately, such pre-stroke symptoms as back pain, neck pain, and headaches may not explicitly appear to be the early stages of a vascular incident without the “red-flag” accompanying symptoms of blurred vision, dizziness, slurred speech, facial drooping, and lack of coordination.  Therefore, it is not standard practice for chiropractors or medical physicians to refer every case of back pain or headaches to the emergency room and patients may receive chiropractic or medical intervention without knowing that a stroke is ensuing.[1]

The unfortunate part about this is that because more and more people are trusting chiropractic care for their health care needs the incidence of these situations may become more apparent due simply to circumstance, not association of cause.

In one statistical analysis of causation, in a letter to the editor of JMPT, Myler [2] posed an interesting question: “I was curious how the risk of fatal stroke after cervical manipulation, placed at 0.00025% compared with the risk of (fatal) stroke in the general population of the United States.” According to data obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics, the mortality rate from stroke was calculated to be 0.00057%.  If Myler’s data is accurate, the risk of death from stroke after cervical manipulation is less than half the risk of fatal stroke in the general population! [3]

This is just one study of many that has refuted the “stroke hypothesis”.  To continue on about how absurd the correlation can get there was one statistical finding posed where it was estimated that you were 9 times more likely to have a stroke following dinner at a Chinese food restaurant versus getting a chiropractic adjustment.

Despite the overwhelming facts, media, attorneys and mis-informed medical workers continue to give their opinion to the contrary which is completely unfounded and unwarranted.  I encourage everyone to do their due diligence and look into the issue for themselves if there is any concern.

My biggest recommendation is to focus on the amazing benefits that can possibly occur by reconnecting your brain to body pathways through adjustments.  Be someone who lives making empowered decisions as opposed to fear based ones.  Choose Chiropractic not to be afraid of “yellow opinions”, but be excited for the possibilities of better health, better life expression and better function for you and those you care about.

Yours in Health,

Dr. D

[1] Harding, B.J.
[2] Myler L: Letter to the editor. JMPT 1996;19:357.
[3] Kent, Christopher



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