There has certainly been a great deal of talk and speculation when it comes to chiropractic neck adjustments.
If you’ve been reading news accounts, an actress suffered a stroke after receiving a neck adjustment at her chiropractor’s office. This was a rare and tragic event, but there is so much more to this story than the media is willing to tell. So much of the information that is being given to the public is based on speculation or biased research methods.
Let’s find out all the facts about neck adjustments so you can make an informed decision about your neck pain or other health issues.
How Does a Chiropractor Adjust Your Neck?
Adjustments of the neck, also known as cervical manipulation, is a very precise movement where slight pressure is applied to the neck, almost exclusively done by hand. By adjusting the vertebra in the neck, it improves the mobility of the cervical spine, restores range of motion and can increase the flexibility of the adjoining muscles.
Patients with neck pain from a variety of issues find that, after a neck adjustment, they have an increased ability to turn and/or tilt their head, less pain, soreness, and less stiffness.
Chiropractic neck adjustment techniques will vary from doctor to doctor and from patient to patient, but most chiropractors will use flexion distraction, the Logan technique, or a Gonstead adjustment. Neck pain can really hurt, so those in Juneau count on Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab’s Same-Day and 10-Minute promise.
Do Neck Adjustments Cause Stroke?
It’s possible, but so is being struck by lightening or winning the lottery. Some estimates put your risk of having a stroke via a neck adjustment at one in every 5 million adjustments, others place this risk at one in every 2 million adjustments. No matter how you slice it, that is an unbelievably miniscule risk.
Let’s talk about 5 facts concerning chiropractic neck adjustments that the media will never mention.
5 Facts about Neck Adjustments
Very few health care procedures have been placed under the intense scrutiny that chiropractic neck adjustments have undergone lately. When you look at the facts and review available studies, it’s easy to see that chiropractic adjustments, including to the neck, are safe, cost effective, and an effective procedure.
Fact #1-It’s Safer than Driving Your Car
Chiropractic treatments in general, but lately neck adjustments have been targeted, have been singled out as somehow having an “unacceptable” risk while predisposing factors or previous events, such as sports, previous neck injury, congenital anomaly, and lifestyle activities, are being completely ignored.
A neck adjustment is simply assumed to be the cause, without any effort being made towards finding what the actual cause might be and the published natural causes of stroke are never spoken about or published.
The risk of a stroke from a chiropractic neck adjustment is roughly 1 out of every 2 million adjustments. Your risk of having a car accident? 1 in 77, and yet, no one is suggesting that cars should be outlawed.
Fact #2-It’s Less Risky than Ibuprofen or Aspirin
NSAIDS are over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories that can be very helpful in some situation when consumed properly and for a short period of time. However, even these common household pain medications can be deadly when taken in large doses or mixed with other substances. This includes aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and Motrin.
The risk of dying from the improper use of NSAIDS in 1 out of every 1,200 persons. Remember that the risk of suffering a stroke from a chiropractic neck adjustment is out of every 2 million adjustments. Note in the study that the headline reads “rare adverse events”, a tagline that doesn’t accompany chiropractic neck adjustments.
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Fact #3-It’s Not Nearly as Dangerous as Surgery
Although studies vary, it’s generally accepted that the risk of a stroke is approximately 1 in 1 million neck adjustments performed. Would you like to know the odds of having a stroke if you underwent cervical spine surgery? 1 in every 145 surgeries. Yet, no one is talking about avoiding neck surgery!
We aren’t trying to frighten anyone out of having neck surgery or any type of surgery. Sometimes, surgery is absolutely necessary! Our point is that surgery is far riskier than neck manipulations and yet, the media is silent about this.
Fact #4-It’s Safer than Your Birth Control or Practicing Tai Chi
The truth is that living can be dangerous to your health! Common activities and substances that we take for granted do have risks associated with them.
There is almost no limit to the activities that have been associated with an increased risk of having a stroke; everything from Tai Chi to football, swimming to star gazing! Even something as simple as oral contraceptives can lead to an ischemic stroke, as this meta review of current studies shows, with an average being 4.1 strokes for every 100,000 non-smoking women who take low-dose estrogen birth control pills.
Fact #5-Evidence is Mixed and Inconclusive
Trying to determine the cause of a stroke can be an elusive objective. Researchers and health care experts have drawn an association between the onset of stroke symptoms and everyday living situations that would involve moving the neck (such as star gazing, yoga, or turning your head while driving before changing lanes). When an individual has no known predisposition to stroke, such as high blood pressure or family history, movement of the neck can contribute to a series of events that might lead to a stroke.
While some studies have found that the risk associated with neck adjustments was 1 in every 20,000, this same study admits that some of the subjects had already had smaller strokes before their neck adjustments.
Numerous other studies, such as those listed above, found the risk to be 1 in every 2 million and another 1 in every 5 million.
Chiropractic Neck Adjustment Side Effects
Any side effects someone might feel after a neck adjustment are the same as someone who has had other spinal adjustments, including:
- Vertigo or nausea
- Muscle soreness
- Brain fog
- Cold or flu like symptoms, such as a runny nose
Cervical spine adjustments are not much different from spinal or low back adjustments. They are extremely safe and effective for nearly everyone.
Who Should Not Have a Neck Adjustment?
There are some people who should not have neck adjustments and they should inform their chiropractor if any of the following apply:
- Anyone with a history of strokes in their family
- Those with high blood pressure
- People with severe osteoporosis
- If you have bone cancer or infections in the bone (Osteomyelitis)
- If you are taking blood thinners
- If you have neck fractures or dislocations
- Severe cases of arthritis (psoriatic arthritis)
- Those with multiple myeloma
- If you have a progressive neurologic condition, such as cauda equina syndrome
- Reiter’s syndrome (reactive arthritis)
- Current or past tumors in the bones
- Those with Marfans syndrome, Ehlers/Danlos Syndrome, fibromuscular dysplasia or osteogenesis imperfecta syndrome.
If you have any doubts or questions, speak to your doctor and your chiropractor first. If you are in Anchorage, you can schedule a chiropractic appointment with us, Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, for neck pain relief. We have hundreds of 5-star reviews from patients who trusted us.
Should You Let a Chiropractor Adjust Your Neck?
As with any medical procedure, if you are having neck pain or other problems (such as migraines), you have been honest with your chiropractor about your medical history, and if your chiropractor decides that, after doing a full medical history and exam, that you are a good candidate for a cervical adjustment, there is no need to worry.
As we stated above, the odds in your favor are excellent. Millions of neck adjustments are performed yearly, with zero problems. This can’t be said for surgery or other medical procedures.
The Bottom Line
Chiropractors consistently have shown that all types of spinal adjustments, including cervical adjustments, are safe and effective, making them of tremendous benefit since these treatments relieve pain naturally. This makes chiropractic a valuable practice when you consider the opioid crisis that is sweeping through America.
Chiropractors must take continued education classes that keep them up to date with the latest information and scientific research, as well as keeping their skills current. Depending on the state, most require that chiropractors renew their licenses to practice and spend as much as 150 hours in continuing education every 3 years. This varies from state to state, but all states require at least some continuing education.
By maintaining high standards with quality education, training, and experience, chiropractors everywhere have proven that their treatments are safe for nearly everyone.
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If you still have questions and would like to speak to a chiropractor about your situation, call us if you are in Wasilla, Alaska. We offer same-day appointments and our unique 3 pledge promise. If you prefer, you can make an appointment online by clicking here.
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About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.