It has long been asserted that cervical manipulation of the spine, in particular rotational manipulation, can cause torsion to the vertebral artery, and very rarely a dissection-type stroke. However, the supposed risk of this happen has varied widely depending upon the source, ranging from 1:1,000,000 to 1:10,000,000 manipulations. And I’ve seen numbers as low as 1:200,000. On a personal note I’ve performed well over 600,000 cervical adjustments in my career and no stroke yet. But there are two reasons for that. The first reason is that the most recent science says there is no causal relationship between chiropractic manipulation and artery dissection. The second is my chosen technique.
Six neurosurgeons from Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Loma Linda Medical Center, and Pennsylvania State University published their conclusions on 2/16/16 of an in depth “meta-analysis” of 253 published studies. In their conclusions they state, “There is no convincing evidence to support a causal link between chiropractic manipulation and CAD (cervical artery dissection).” The go on, “Belief in a causal link may have significant negative consequences such as numerous episodes of litigation.” The important words here are causal and belief.
The chiropractor who is accused of causing the death of Katie May is most likely a victim of bad timing. The scenario that best fits the evidence is that Ms. May’s neck pain was due to a dissection already in process, which is impossible to diagnose without ultrasound or CT imaging, and would appear the same as any typical mechanical neck pain. The chiropractor did his thing and the dissection continued and she died. There most definitely is a “temporal” relationship between his manipulation and the stroke, but a “causal” one, in all probability not. I suspect the coroner has not read the latest study on the issue and is going by old science and outdated beliefs.
I said there are two reasons for my spotless record. The first is science, and the second is that the adjustment technique I use utilizes almost no rotation. So even if there were to be found a scientific connection between chiropractic manipulation and CAD, by eliminating rotation from the adjustment process, there is no torsioning of the vertebral artery in the first place, making me safer than safe.