Chiropractic and strokes are related topics which should be of concern to some patients who undergo spinal adjustments on a regular basis. There has been considerable controversy and argument from several different points of view regarding an increased risk of stroke from chiropractic treatment.
The goal of this article is to provide an objective view based on the facts, rather than from a particular medical or complementary perspective. Since the possibility of suffering a stroke is an extreme health risk, it is advised that all patients who treat with a chiropractor, or are considering beginning treatment, learn the truth before getting another spinal adjustment.
Statistically, there is a higher incidence of strokes among chiropractic patients than in the general population. This is a fact. Just how large of a difference is open to interpretation. Some doctors say the risk is substantially increased, while most chiropractors cite that the incidence is just slightly higher.
The thing which bothers me from the chiropractic point of view is the distractive tactics often employed to take the heat off the matter at hand. Many chiropractors mention similar stroke risks related to going to get your hair washed at a salon (beauty parlor stroke syndrome) or participation in common athletic activities (weekend warrior stroke syndrome).
While these activities also present an elevated risk for stroke, the fact that chiropractors point to these other activities makes me really wonder just how much greater a chance is truly involved with getting a chiropractic adjustment. If it were minimal, then why use these illogical distraction tactics to throw a focused mind off course? Better to just compare the slightly increased risk to the many benefits of chiropractic therapy IMHO.
The thought behind why strokes are more likely to occur when getting a spinal adjustment is focused around cervical manipulation. In cases of stroke, there is thought to be a heightened risk of impinging upon or damaging a blood vessel in the neck or upper back which may in turn lead to an immediate stroke, given the close proximity to the brain.
The main risk factor seems to be rotational (side to side) adjustment of the cervical spine, although face down direct compressive adjustment is also implicated. Unfortunately, both of these seem commonplace during an average chiropractic visit. It must be noted that no common singular adjusting technique has ever been directly blamed in most research studies.
Patients at risk for stroke demonstrate a slightly higher incidence of occurrence when undergoing a chiropractic visit. Yes, they also demonstrate similar risks from going to the beauty salon or participation in occasional athletic events. However, people who are not at risk of a stroke also demonstrate only a slightly lower chance of occurrence while undergoing chiropractic manipulation, compared to virtually no risk for salon or athletic events.
So, what does this all mean? It is up to you to decide. The chances of getting a stroke from a spinal adjustment are truly minimal, but the risk is there. Some people bet on winning the lottery, and others bet on losing their life to a stroke. You have to choose your path based on what you believe, as well as the pros and cons of chiropractic treatment.
Just be warned that some chiropractors may not acknowledge this risk, may make light or it, or may vehemently deny it. Tell them to learn the facts before they spread propaganda to patients. There are obviously tons of patients who love chiropractic and accept the tiny risk in exchange for many potential benefits.
Therefore, doing anything to distract from or camouflage the truth sets a dishonest tone for the rest of the interactions between the patient and their doctor and should be taken as a sign to use caution when trusting this provider 100%.