Does Chiropractic manipulation of the neck cause strokes?

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Is Chiropractic manipulation safe?

There have been a few articles in the press recently about how manipulation of the neck is dangerous as it can cause strokes.  This articles aim is to consider whether this is a fair statement of fact or perhaps over exuberant journalism, so let’s look at the science and evidence.

Chiropractic is a primary health-care profession concerned with disorders of the musculoskeletal system.  Chiropractic is used by millions of people each year for the treatment and overall management of conditions that are due to problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves, especially related to the spine.

Chiropractic is extremely safe.  While it is common for Chiropractic patients to experience mild and temporary side effects from spinal manipulation, such as soreness and muscular aching, serious adverse events are extremely rare.

Evidence of safety

The most extensive recent study of neck pain was conducted by the Neck Pain Task Force, which published its findings in the world respected journal ‘Spine’ in 2008. The authors concluded looking at the evidence, that:-

“No evidence of excess risk of stroke was associated with Chiropractic care when compared to conventional general practitioner management for the treatment of neck pain”.

Or simply put another way – there was no more risk seeing a Chiropractor and getting a stroke than seeing your GP and then getting a stroke.

Education – your reassurance

Chiropractors are highly trained and undergo a minimum of four years training before they can join the statutory register. Their education is similar to a doctors and includes medical sciences such as anatomy, biochemistry and physiology as well as extensive training in manual techniques including manipulation – a technique also commonly used by Osteopaths.  Now graduates are trained to Masters Degree (MSc) level – 5 years full time followed by more study to receive their Doctor of Chiropractic title or DC.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) takes safety very seriously.  It advises its members on patient safety issues and subscribes to the Royal College of Chiropractors’ Chiropractic Patient Incident Reporting and Learning System (CPiRLS).  This system helps to identify patient safety issues by allowing Chiropractors to anonymously submit reports of incidents involving adverse events.

Statutory regulation

In the United Kingdom, Chiropractors are subject to statutory regulation by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).  The GCC exists to protect the public and does so by maintaining a register, setting standards of conduct and practice and setting standards of education. Chiropractors found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and sanctioned and can be removed from the Register in the same way that doctors can be struck off.

Registered Chiropractors do everything they can to assure the safety of the care they provide and are obliged to undertake a full assessment prior to treating patients.  When spinal manipulation is used as part of a Chiropractor’s care plan, it is performed under strict conditions and only after risk factors have been excluded.

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About the Author:

Derby Chiropractor Ian Reed and co founder of WellBeing Clinics Derby