Have you wondered if chiropractic is safe?

Another article has been circulating in the press calling into question the safety of chiropractic and specifically, can a chiropractic neck adjustment cause a stroke?  Our hearts go out to those involved in these stories.  It is not the purpose of this post to discredit or give our opinion on a specific incident.  This is to inform our current and potential patients what the current evidence shows about the safety of chiropractic.

How could a chiropractic adjustment lead to a stroke?

This topic has been around for years and you can find the Chiropractic Association of Australia’s official fact sheet here

The proposed way that a chiropractic neck adjustment could cause a stroke is via injuring one of the arteries in the neck.  The most common artery mentioned in this discussion is the vertebral artery and that injury is called a vertebrobasilar artery dissection (VBA).  The injured artery wall then leads to a blood clot which eventually heads up to the brain and causes a stroke.  Current data supports the incidence of VBA being approximately 1.3 per 1000 cases of stroke.  The most commonly listed cause of these VBA’s is spontaneous, while many others are classified as “trivial trauma” or as “mundane activities of daily living” such as walking, kneeling to pray, and household chores.  The overwhelming majority of VBA’s occur in the absence of any association with chiropractic.

Is a chiropractic adjustment traumatic to the vertebral artery?

It is true that many case studies and reviews presuppose that a chiropractic neck adjustment would be a potential traumatic event to the vertebral artery.  However, there is no current data to support this claim.  In fact, what the current data does show is surprisingly opposite.

Dr. James Chestnut in his review on the current scientific literature on this subject says the following,

“The only data available on the forces transmitted to the vertebral artery during a chiropractic cervical adjustment were published by Symons et al and indicate that an adjustment represents less force to the vertebral artery than turning the head within normal range of motion.”  In other words, a chiropractic adjustment represents less trauma than a mundane common activity of daily living.”

So what does all this mean?

We will conclude this post, again, with a quote from Dr. James Chestnut

“At this time, it cannot be scientifically stated that there is no risk of VBA dissection from a chiropractic cervical adjustment.  It can, and in my opinion must, be scientifically stated that there is neither valid evidence of a causal relationship between chiropractic cervical adjustment and VBA dissection nor any valid data to estimate a risk of VBA dissection associated with chiropractic cervical adjustment. “

The reality is that over 215,000 Australians visit a chiropractor each week and even the highest risk estimates of chiropractic are far less than the accepted risk ratios of common medical treatments (including over the counter NSAIDS) for health problems related to joints, nerves, and muscles of the neck.  Recent research, scientific studies, and government analyses continue to support the safety, efficacy, and cost effectiveness of chiropractic.

Above all, what type of health care you choose is your choice.  If you think we can help or can answer any of your questions, please give us a call. (07) 3812 7118