In recent years, the news media has focused a lot of attention on the risk of strokes after receiving cervical (upper spine) adjustments. The sensationalized headlines and "warnings" issued by some medical associations have scared a lot of people.
But the fact is, most of the information about strokes and chiropractic is completely inaccurate. It's also very possible that a lot of the mis-information is a deliberate scare tactic being used by those who want try to destroy chiropractic since it represents competition.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. The lack of blood causes brain cells to die. There are nearly 750,000 first ever or recurrent strokes each year in the U.S. and more than 150,000 deaths are directly related to strokes.
The fact is, every medical and scientific study ever conducted on the subject shows that chiropractic adjustments are remarkably safe and do not post any significant risk of stroke. In fact the incidence stroke -- or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) as it's also known -- is estimated at between 1 to 3 incidents per million adjustments.
One study covered a period of 28 years, while another involved reviewing about 110 million chiropractic visits. The results of all these studies show conclusively that the risk of stroke from a chiropractic adjustment is so small as to be statistically insignificant.
It has been estimated that it is even less than that of "beauty parlor stroke syndrome" -- a rare occurrence triggered when a customer leans her head back on a sink to get her hair washed.
In reality, even the 1-3 incidents per million adjustments figures may be too high, since it's illogical to say that a stroke which occurs several weeks after chiropractic care was caused by chiropractic.
Not only that, but many of the "manipulations" which were linked to strokes by the medical researchers weren't chiropractic adjustments at all.
Doctors of chiropractic are highly trained in the use of the adjustment, which is a very specific application of force to the spinal bones. Manipulation, on the other hand, is forcing the joint to move beyond its active limit of motion. The two are very different.
Finally, many of the cases cited by medical researchers as being "chiropractic treatments" were actually spinal manipulations rendered by non-chiropractic practitioners.
According a research report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, "manipulations" administered by a Kung Fu practitioner, medical doctors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, a wife, a blind masseur, and an Indian barber had been incorrectly attributed to chiropractors!
Even medical researchers have admitted that chiropractic care carries far less of a stroke risk than medical treatment. "Indeed, most interventions by allopathic physicians have a higher complication rate than chiropractic interventions," said Philip Lee, M.D., a co-investigator of a research survey presented at the American Heart Association's 19th International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.
Based on the scientific evidence readily available today, it is clear that chiropractic adjustments pose no significant risk of strokes and are far safer in this regard than most medical treatments.