As any patient who has walked into my office knows, before starting treatment I discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with you.
Part of this is the risk of stroke associated with cervical manipulation, or, adjusting the neck. As a practitioner, I find it a difficult topic to bring up, as there is lots of research indicating it is effective for acute and some chronic neck pain conditions, but who would want to put themselves at risk of such a serious complication?
Previous accusations have discussed how the vertebral artery has a twisting path up to supply the brain, and how with some positions, this artery is stretched and can cut off blood flow. However, a person having a stroke after neck manipulation happens so infrequently that it's almost impossible to say if the manipulation caused the stroke, or if, as Chiropractic and Medical professionals have suspected, the patient entered the office with a stroke in progress and after the manipulation the symptoms got worse.
What I can say with certainty is that I thoroughly screen each patient before adjusting his or her neck for signs and symptoms of stroke and that a stroke is no more likely to happen in my office than after having gone to a medical office.
Okay, now here's the great news: On Nov. 18, 2013, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics published research called "Changes in vertebral artery blood flow following various head positions and cervical spine manipulation." It was done on 10 healthy males between the ages of 24 to 30, and results were that there were NO significant changes in blood flow or velocity in the vertebral arteries of healthy young male adults after various had positions and cervical spine manipulations. YES it is a small sample size and NO we cannot apply this to everyone across the board, but this is the first step in what I suspect to be a long line of evidence showing what Chiropractors already believe: Neck adjustments are a safe and effective way of relieving acute and chronic neck pain.
Dr. Heather Bailey is a chiropractor with a practice in Newmarket. Her website is www.404chiro.com.