Myth, Fear, and Conjecture- The Real Story Behind Chiropractic Care and Stroke Risk

Sometimes there’s just no way to stop a runaway train, which is what it is like when hot button issues hit the headlines. Through the years the idea that chiropractic manipulations (or adjustments as many call them) can cause a stroke has infiltrated the media and the conventional medicine world. This perceived risk is in relation to cervical artery dissection (CAD) which can cause stroke, and has been at times linked to a chiropractic adjustment.

Zero Causation Ever Established

There has been zero causation ever established between chiropractic care and stroke. In other words, there is no evidence either in research or in the physiology of cervical chiropractic adjustments that prove the process of adjusting can cause CAD or stroke. What is true in the relationship to CAD stroke and chiropractic care is that preliminary symptoms of CAD are those that people commonly see a chiropractor to relieve such as headache, neck/face pain, and dizziness. Therefore it is usually unknown in cases where stroke has occured within days of a chiropractic adjustment if the CAD had already occurred and the symptoms were actually what caused the person to see a chiropractor, like a Chiropractor trusts.  At the end of the day research associating stroke and chiropractic care has shown inconclusive results, at best.

Chiropractic Care- The Safer Option

It is important to put the numbers associated with this risk into perspective as it is easy to become myopic when trying to prove a point that does not have the data to back it up. There is known to be 1 death per 1 million people from cervical adjustments related to CAD. What is not reported, or put into context is there are 153 stroke deaths per 1 million people from NSAID medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Even worse, there are 500 stroke deaths per 1 million people from cervical spinal surgery. In digesting this data, it appears chiropractic care is actually far safer than standard medical treatments of drugs and/or surgery.

Myth, Conjecture and Fear- Not Reliable Treatment Options

High profile organizations like the American Heart Association have produced statements over the years warning people that chiropractic care could be harmful and cause a stroke, but there is simply not the data either scientifically or anecdotally to back up this claim. Additionally, when the data on safety and effectiveness of chiropractic care is honestly assessed, it is found to be a very safe, effective, cost saving treatment option providing relief and restoration for millions each day.