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Aug 18, 2014

Concerns about Neck Therapy and Stroke Risk

While there isn’t enough evidence that neck manipulation directly causes cervical artery dissection and stroke, experts believe patients should be informed about the association.

The American Heart Association expressed concerns about neck manipulation and increased risk of stroke in their recent statement published in the medical journal, Circulation.

Neck manipulation is an alternative therapy performed by chiropractors to address any number of conditions, from migraines to back pain. Although the American Chiropractic Association states that neck manipulation is completely safe, recent studies have raised red flags regarding neck manipulation and stroke risk.

Cervical artery dissection is a small tear in the artery walls in the neck, which can lead to a life-threatening stroke if a clot forms and travels to the brain. Experts have long had reservations about neck manipulation, as sudden movements that overextend the neck, like whiplash or even violent vomiting, can cause a cervical artery dissection.

In their most recent statement, the experts from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association reviewed the latest studies to determine whether neck manipulation is, in fact, linked to increased risk of stroke. Unfortunately, they concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to say that neck manipulation directly causes cervical artery dissection and stroke.

However, there is plenty of evidence linking the two and authors believe that patients should be informed about this association before undergoing neck therapy. Although it’s difficult to prove that neck manipulation causes stroke, experts believe patients should, at the very least, be informed and make their own decision based on possible risks and benefits of therapy. Authors also encourage future research on the issue, since coronary dissection is an important cause of stroke in young and middle-aged patients.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is complementary and alternative medicine?
  • Complementary and alternative medicine refers to using a non-mainstream approach either together or in place of conventional medicine. The difference between conventional and non-mainstream medicine is that mainstream medicine has met strict criteria to prove that the treatment is effective, whereas evidence is less clear regarding the efficacy of non-mainstream medicine.
  • What are the different types of stroke?
  • Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is reduced or blocked. There are three different types of stroke, including ischemic, hemorrhagic, and TIA (transient ischemic attack). Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and occurs when a clot obstructs blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. TIA is often called a “mini stroke,” and occurs when a blood clot temporarily blocks the flow of blood to the brain.


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