Is there a connection between stroke and chiropractic treatment?
Would you think twice about turning your head as you’re backing into a parking space? How about cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder, or getting your hair shampooed at a salon? The risk of stroke from chiropractic care is no greater than it is from any of these daily activities.
A condition known as vertebral artery syndrome (VAS), has become the source of concern with patients receiving upper cervical adjustments. VAS can occur when sudden head movements disrupt the blood flow in the vertebral artery, possibly leading to stroke. However, the risk of VAS happening from an upper cervical (or neck) manipulation by chiropractor is no higher than the daily activity examples given above.
According to the 1996 RAND report, “The Appropriateness of Manipulation and Mobilization of the Cervical Spine,” only one out of every one million chiropractic patients experiences VAS. To put it another way, you are five times more likely to get hit by lightning than to suffer VAS at the hands of a chiropractor.
How does the safety of chiropractic compare to other medical procedures?
If we compare chiropractic to traditional medicine, which uses drugs and surgery as an integral part of treatment, chiropractic presents far less risk.
- In the United States an estimated 140,000 people die each year from drug-related reactions.
- The risk of death due to gastrointestinal complications from taking nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen is 400 times greater than the complication rate for
- people who receive cervical manipulation,
- The mortality rate for people who undergo cervical spine surgery is 7,000 times higher.
- It is estimated that up to 98,000 Americans die yearly from medical errors — a doctor accidentally
- making the wrong incision, a nurse administering the wrong medication, and so on.
How safe is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is recognized as one of the safest types of health care in the world. Numerous studies, including those funded by governments, universities and nonprofit research institutions, have proven it to be a successful primary therapy for neuromusculoskeletal conditions — a therapy that is safer, in fact, than most medical procedures used to treat the same conditions.
Up to 75% of chiropractic patients receive cervical manipulation as part of their individual chiropractic care. It may be performed as part of your care for total spinal health and wellness, or for specific causes such as muscle tension and stiffness, headache or injury.
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Zuber, M., J. Meder and J. Moss. “Carotid Artery Dissection due to Elongated Styloid Process.” Neurology (Nov. 1999).
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Chiropractic in the United States: Training, Practice and Research,” Dec. 1997.
Coulter, I., E. Hurwitz, A. Adams, W. Meeker, D. Hansen, R. Mootz, P. Aker, B. Genovese and P. Shekelle. “The Appropriateness of Manipulation and Mobilization of the Cervical Spine.” Santa Monica: RAND, 1996.
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