The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) estimates that over 35 million Americans reap the benefits of chiropractic medicine every year. And that’s clearly an undercount, considering that many others are deterred from much-needed care by age-old, long-debunked myths, such as:
Chiropractic adjustments trigger strokes.
Let’s take a step back and review what the hard data is telling us. Spoiler alert: It refutes the scary tale that popping into your chiropractor’s office for neck adjustments is like rolling the dice on a stroke!
Large-scale studies have repeatedly shown that the risk of stroke from chiropractic adjustments isn’t any higher than that associated with general medical practice. So, before we jump on the bandwagon of chiropractic scare stories, let’s lower the temperature and review the facts against any link between chiropractic manipulation and cervical artery dissection.
Why Do We Associate Chiropractic Adjustments With an Increased Risk of Stroke?
Some people associate chiropractic care with an increased risk of stroke because of cervical spinal manipulations, or in layman’s terms, “neck adjustments.” During this procedure, the chiropractor applies force to the neck area for realignment.
Here’s where the stroke-related concerns pop up. The neck houses arteries facilitating blood flow to the brain. The concern is that neck adjustments might injure these arteries, causing a type of stroke called cervical artery dissection (Source: National Library of Medicine).
However, and this is a big “however,” this correlation is based mostly on case reports and not solid scientific evidence. In other words, we have records of patients suffering a stroke after chiropractic adjustments, but we cannot conclude if neck adjustments or pure coincidence are to blame.
Furthermore, numerous healthcare experts believe that patients seeking neck pain relief might already have an arterial dissection in progress, unbeknownst to them.
Does Science Back Up the Chiropractic Stroke Myth?
While some reports and studies do suggest a potential link between chiropractic neck manipulation and stroke, they are by no means definitive. They merely suggest a possible correlation, not causation.
A 2015 systematic review published in the Journal of the American Heart Association concluded that the risk of stroke seemed comparable whether patients sought treatment from a chiropractor or a primary care physician, indicating no specific increase in risk attributable to chiropractic treatment.
Another 2015 study published in Chiropractic & Manual Therapies found no significant association between chiropractic care and vertebrobasilar stroke (VBA).
Finally, a 2017 study published in the journal Stroke, after examining thousands of cases of carotid artery stroke, found no significant association between this condition and neck manipulation.
What Conditions Increase the Risk of Stroke?
It is universally acknowledged that strokes are a serious health concern. They rank amongst the leading causes of disability and mortality globally, affecting a significant number of individuals annually. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the risk factors that increase our predisposition to this serious medical condition:
- Hypertension: This subtle yet potent risk factor holds a prominent position in causing strokes. It contributes to both ischemic strokes, characterized by obstructed vessels, and hemorrhagic strokes, which involve vessel rupture.
- Cardiac Complications: Various heart conditions can elevate your likelihood of suffering a stroke, ranging from coronary artery disease and malfunctioning heart valves to blood vessel inflammation.
- Diabetes: The impacts of diabetes extend beyond elevated blood sugar levels. It can also cause considerable damage to your blood vessels, consequently setting the stage for a potential stroke.
- Hypercholesterolemia: Excessive cholesterol can precipitate atherosclerosis, a condition that hardens and narrows the arteries, thus increasing the propensity for stroke.
- Atrial Fibrillation: This medical term refers to irregular heart rhythm. It can lead to the formation of a blood clot in the heart that, upon dislodgement, can travel to the brain, thereby causing a stroke.
- Tobacco Use: Smoking adversely affects your blood vessels and blood pressure, thus increasing the risk of stroke.
- Obesity: Excessive weight can lead to hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels, both of which enhance the likelihood of a stroke.
- History of Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Prior occurrences of stroke or TIA place individuals at a heightened risk of subsequent stroke incidents.
Ready for Your First Chiropractic Neck Manipulation? Dr. Doerr is Here to Help!
At Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, under the leadership of Dr. Gregory Doerr, adheres to the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care in a comfortable, healing atmosphere.
Access our contact form or call us at (201) 945-4075 to learn more about our chiropractic care services! Our offices at 532 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, and 62 Summit Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601, are ready to welcome you as we proudly serve the areas of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD. Also, feel free to access our blog, Facebook, and Instagram pages for more information on chiropractic adjustments!
- Blum, Christina A., and Shadi Yaghi. “Cervical Artery Dissection: A Review of the Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Treatment, and Outcome.” Archives of Neuroscience, vol. 2, no. 4, 2015, https://doi.org/10.5812/archneurosci.26670. Accessed 27 Jul. 2023.
- Cassidy, J. David, et al. “Risk of Carotid Stroke after Chiropractic Care: A Population-Based Case-Crossover Study.” Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, vol. 26, no. 4, 2017, pp. 842–850, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2016.10.031. Accessed 27 Jul. 2023.
- Donkor, Eric S. “Stroke in the 21st Century: A Snapshot of the Burden, Epidemiology, and Quality of Life.” Stroke Research and Treatment, vol. 2018, 2018, pp. 1–10, https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/3238165. Accessed 27 Jul. 2023.
- Kosloff, Thomas M, et al. “Chiropractic Care and the Risk of Vertebrobasilar Stroke: Results of a Case–Control Study in U.S. Commercial and Medicare Advantage Populations.” Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12998-015-0063-x. Accessed 27 Jul. 2023.
- Key Facts – ACA Today. Accessed 27 Jul. 2023.