Healthy Beginnings

Does chiropractic care cause strokes?

Experts agree that it is safe to get your neck adjusted by a chiropractor.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. This deprives your brain of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause your brain cells to die.

A blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke) may cause strokes; with that, some people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain (transient ischemic attack, or TIA).

It’s true on some rare occasions that strokes have been associated with chiropractic treatment, but let’s look at the top causes of strokes.

If you have already had a stroke, then your odds increase that you’ll have another one if you have a piece of plaque in the carotid arteries, or carotid artery disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attacks, diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), smoking, heavy drinking, ethnicity, age, hereditary (genetics), and/or trauma to the neck area.

In the case where a piece of plaque breaks loose and causes a stroke, the patient and the chiropractor are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of these people would have had the stroke while doing something else, like getting their hair washed at a salon, turning their head to look at cars while driving, doing their daily activities, sports, etc.

The other way you could get stroke-like symptoms from a chiropractic adjustment is when you have your neck extremely rotated and twisted (high rotary adjustment), which is not a common adjustment, especially when you have a bad headache or bad infection.

The vertebral arteries are stretched to their max due to the increased blood pressure, and then with the added extreme stretch, it could possibly cause the vertebral arteries to get tears in them (cervical dissection) at the base of the skull area.

This will cause the person to bleed at that area, causing stroke-like symptoms. This type of stroke is the one most of the medical community is talking about when they talk about the dangers of chiropractic and strokes.

Because of all the concerns around this topic, over the years plenty of research and statistics have come forth.

According to a 2002 study in the “Spine Journal,” between 1988 and 1997, 23 cases of vertebral dissection following cervical manipulation were reported to the Canadian Chiropractic Protective Agency (malpractice representatives for approximately 85 percent of all practicing chiropractors in Canada).

Following a survey of the profession, the calculated rate of vertebral artery dissection after manipulation was 1:5,846,381. Researchers have noted that one of the problems they’re having is they don’t know how many people already had cervical artery dissection (CAD) occurring before they saw the doctor, but weren’t aware of it.

This is due to when people see doctors after injuries and having pains in the neck and head area, which could be the symptoms of or beginnings of spontaneous artery dissection already in progress.

Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death for Americans. More than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year. The most common stroke is what’s called spontaneous cervical artery dissection (CAD), where for no reason the arteries tear on their own.

Researchers have found that this is 58 percent more common in the month of October, associated with recent respiratory infections, and it remains one of the most common causes of stroke in patients under the age of 45.

So is it safe to get your neck adjusted by a chiropractor or any other part of your spine? It is very safe, especially if the chiropractic doctor has taken the time to do an exam and has taken a good history first, as most bad things are found in performing these two things.

In fact, malpractice insurance is considerably less expensive for chiropractors compared to medical doctors. This is due to less chance of getting hurt or having side effects from treatment rendered in a chiropractic office.

Now that you know more of the facts regarding chiropractic, you can put your heart at ease and enjoy the many benefits of having a healthy and proper functioning nervous system.

Dr. Tony C. Jensen is a Reno-based chiropractic who is board certified in the state of Nevada. Visit to learn more.