Chiropractic and Stroke
Recently, there was an article showing a picture of a model who died under the headlines claiming she was “killed by a chiropractor” from a neck adjustment. Let’s dive a little more in depth into this claim since every couple of years it seems to show up in the news.
Is it possible?
There is no evidence of causation. Maybe there is a very weak association with chiropractic care and stroke but the same association exists with medical care and stroke. There is no evidence that the mechanical forces from a chiropractic adjustment (performed by a chiropractor) can cause a Vertebral Artery Dissection (VAD) or Carotid Artery Dissection (CAD) that would result in a stroke.
The relationship between stroke and chiropractic adjustments is a correlation, at best, not a causal relationship. This means that the evidence does not really show any statistical significance to suggest that a chiropractic adjustment CAUSES stroke. The reality is that people who have strokes after a chiropractic adjustment were likely going to have a stroke at some point anyway because they already experienced a VAD or CAD from a trauma or other preexisting condition prior to receiving a chiropractic adjustment.
The most common type of stroke that is claimed to happen as a result of a chiropractic adjustment is a Vertebral Artery Dissection (VAD) or Carotid Artery Dissection (CAD). Your brain receives blood from both the Vertebral Artery and the Carotid Artery on both sides of the neck. A VAD or CAD is when one of these arteries tears causing a loss of blood to the brain. Both of these types of strokes are VERY rare.
History and Causation
In the recent case with the model who died of a stroke, it was reported and she tweeted that she had a “pinched nerve” and that’s why she went to the chiropractor. This “pinched nerve” was because she fell on her neck, reportedly very hard, a few days before seeing the chiropractor, which is likely what caused the CAD and ultimately why she ended up having a stroke.
The association between the stroke and the chiropractic adjustment is not surprising because the symptoms she experienced from the tear in her carotid artery are similar to common symptoms treated by chiropractic. Remember, there is just as much of an association with seeing a medical doctor and then having a stroke as there is seeing a chiropractor. Again there is no research or evidence that shows a chiropractic adjustment by itself actually CAUSES a tear in the carotid artery or vertebral artery that would result in a stroke.
The reason we hear about it with chiropractic is because many of the symptoms (neck pain, headache, vertigo dizziness) are similar to symptoms that a patient in need of chiropractic care would have. If the chiropractor does a thorough evaluation and to rule out these risk factors then it is even more unlikely there will never be an issue. However, there are reports that after she fell she went to the hospital to be evaluated by a medical doctor first, who found nothing and sent her on her way.
The Glaring Reality
Even if all of the media hype is true and chiropractic can “cause”, and remember there is absolutely NO EVIDENCE OR RESEARCH to support that statement, the worst case scenario is that you chances of dying from a stroke after a chiropractic adjustment are less than 1 in a million and that’s being VERY generous using erroneous data. Even if that was true, and again it’s not, that risk is insanely low when compared to risks of iatrogenic (doctor caused) deaths that the medical field put up every year. There is a ton of research and evidence on the dangers of properly prescribed drugs and surgeries. Many experts believe that the medical community is the third leading cause of death in the United States!
Every study performed to investigate if there is an association between cervical chiropractic adjustments and stroke has failed to find sufficient data linked the two. If there was research that supported the claim that chiropractic adjustments actually caused VAD/CAD and stroke then you can be sure that every time someone died of a stroke and they had to visit a chiropractor recently, the media would be touting that research far and wide. The fact is that you have never seen the media present that research because it does not exist. Millions upon millions of chiropractic adjustments are performed every year. If there were a causal relationship it would not be hard to prove.
The “research” that the medical field uses to make these erroneous claims isn’t even valid. The adjustments used in one study that attempts to show causation, ultimately can’t even show causation between stroke and chiropractic. Including incidents in which non-chiropractors like Doctors of Osteopathy, medical doctors, physical therapists, and even untrained non-physicians like Athletic trainers, MASSAGE THERAPISTS, and even a spouse performed a “chiropractic adjustment”.
Take heart knowing that the chiropractic adjustments is likely one of the safest forms of professional healthcare treatment on the face of the planet.
If you want more information supporting the safety of chiropractic, there is a LOT of it. Feel free to read through and watch the links below to learn more.