The worst thing a chiropractor can do to a patient is to cause a stroke by overly aggressive neck manipulation. This can produce something called a vertebral artery dissection.
The vertebral arteries run up the back of the neck, next to the vertebrae (neck bones), and supply blood to the back of the brain, particularly to the cerebellum, which is important for balance and coordination. Dissection is where the layers of the artery tear or pull apart, and the passage of blood through the artery can become blocked, producing a stroke. This can take days to develop, so the connection with the chiropractic manipulation isn’t always obvious.
Less often, neck manipulation is associated with damage to the arteries in the front of the neck, the carotid arteries, and that too can produce a stroke.
Chiropractors downplay the risk of stroke from their treatments, but it is well accepted in the medical literature as a genuine serious risk. A related issue is whether there is any benefit to the patient from aggressive neck manipulations. There is no scientific evidence that chiropractic manipulations of the neck benefit other parts of the body, like the lower back.
Remember that stroke is a “brain attack” that needs to be treated as aggressively and quickly as a heart attack. It’s a medical emergency. Sometimes we lay people can be our own worst enemies when we get new symptoms. We assume it will “go away.” We look for benign explanations for what is wrong. Don’t do that! Call 911 instead and get to the nearest hospital that offers stroke treatment. Read More…
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