The signs of stroke following a chiropractic adjustment may include weakness in one arm, slurred speech or difficulty speaking, and numbness or drooping on one side of the face.

Stroke as a result of chiropractic adjustment is a rare occurrence. However, the risk may be slightly higher in certain people depending on the type of chiropractic adjustment they have.

Following chiropractic adjustment, a person should contact a doctor if they experience any signs or symptoms of stroke. It is crucial to act quickly, as fast treatment can help reduce the amount of damage stroke can cause to the brain.

This article looks at signs of stroke, whether chiropractic adjustments can cause stroke, and how common this might be.

It also looks at when a person should contact a doctor after chiropractic care, causes of a severe headache after an adjustment, and answers to some frequently asked questions.

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Chiropractic sessions do not typically cause serious adverse effects. However, there is a low risk of serious problems, such as stroke and slipped disc, particularly after vigorous spinal manipulation.

A person should contact the ER immediately in the case of a suspected stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends using the F.A.S.T. warning signs to spot a stroke in someone, and to immediately call emergency services.

  • F — Face: One side of a person’s face may droop or feel numb during a stroke.
  • A — arm weakness: One arm may be numb or weak, and a person may struggle to lift it.
  • S — speech: A person’s speech may be slurred.
  • T — time to call 911: A person should call emergency services immediately, as taking action quickly can help minimize brain damage.

Learn more about the symptoms of stroke.

There appears to be evidence that chiropractic adjustments may increase the risk of stroke in some people.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), spinal manipulation can carry a risk of stroke.

In addition, authors of a 2018 illustrative case and review of literature found that those with a high risk of vertebral artery dissection may have a higher risk of stroke if they undergo certain types of chiropractic adjustments. Vertebral artery dissection is a condition in which one of the large blood vessels in the neck tears.

The authors state that cervical manipulation can lead to vertebral or carotid artery dissection. During cervical manipulation, chiropractors use a high-velocity thrusting technique which can place strain on the vertebral and carotid arteries.

These arteries transport oxygen-rich blood to the brain. If a tear develops, this can cause a blood clot to form, which can in turn lead to stroke.

The authors of the article stress that most people are not medically cleared to undergo chiropractic adjustments. This can have severe effects on those who have an increased risk of vertebral artery dissection.

However, the population that has a higher risk is fairly small, affecting approximately 1–3 per 100,000 individuals.

Is the risk high?

The risk of having a stroke after chiropractic adjustments appears to be low.

Authors of a 2015 article found that there were only small differences in the amount of stroke risk between those who visited chiropractors and those who visited primary care physicians to address neck pain.

Stroke after chiropractic adjustments appears to be rare.

According to one 2018 literature review, 1 in 48 chiropractors experience an event in which chiropractic adjustment leads to dissection, which can result in a stroke.

The review also cites an older 2013 systematic review, which found that researchers have reported 901 cases of cerebral artery dissections linked to chiropractic manipulation, 707 of which resulted in some type of stroke.

A person may experience temporary mild side effects following a chiropractic adjustment, such as stiffness and aches and pains. A person should not typically experience a severe headache after their adjustment.

A severe headache may occur after adjustment if neck muscles spasm and tighten in response to spinal adjustment, which can lead to cervical vertebrae becoming even further misaligned.

However, a sudden and severe thunderclap headache, which occurs and peaks quickly, may indicate a stroke. If someone experiences a sudden, severe headache after a chiropractic adjustment, they should contact a doctor.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about chiropractic adjustment.

How safe is chiropractic treatment?

According to the NHS, when a trained and registered chiropractor correctly performs chiropractic, it’s generally safe.

People may experience mild side effects that pass in a few days. These can include tiredness, stiffness, aches, and pains.

However, spinal manipulation can carry risks, including stroke and slipped disc.

If people are concerned about the safety of their treatment, they should speak with a healthcare professional about their concerns.

Learn more about some truths behind chiropractors.

Can a chiropractic adjustment cause an aneurysm?

Yes, in rare cases, spinal adjustments can result in an aneurysm.

An estimated 1 in 20,000 spinal manipulations results in vertebral artery aneurysm or dissection.

What are some red flags to look out for when finding a chiropractor?

A person should be careful to properly research and find a competent chiropractor. They may want to ask their doctor for a referral.

Some warning signs a chiropractor may not be reliable include:

  • lack of accreditation and testimonials
  • promises to fix a person’s problems in one session
  • attempts to schedule excessive visits
  • lack of a medical care treatment plan
  • rushed appointments and lack of care
  • attempts to push excessive and expensive supplements and products on clients
  • unwillingness to work with medical professionals

People may benefit from using the American Chiropractic Association’s online tool to help find a qualified chiropractor.

It is rare for someone to have a stroke that a chiropractic adjustment caused. However, there is a possibility that rigorous cervical manipulation could cause arterial dissection in people who are predisposed to it.

Artery dissection is a major cause of ischemic stroke. People should discuss any potential health risks of chiropractic adjustment with a doctor who is aware of their medical history before undergoing adjustment.

If someone experiences any signs or symptoms of stroke following chiropractic adjustment, they should seek emergency medical assistance as quickly as possible.