Let’s Talk About The “S” Word: Can Cracking Your Neck Cause A Stroke?
Should You Worry About ‘Popping’ Your Neck?
Last week it seemed like every other patient at Ascent Chiropractic was asking if they should be worried about causing a stroke by cracking their neck.
The reason? In case you missed it, just about every national news outlet was reporting on an Oklahoma man who’s currently recovering from a harrowing medical ordeal after he did what millions of Americans do every day: he cracked his neck, only to land in the hospital for a stroke.
The man, Josh Hader (not Brewers star pitcher Josh Hader), reported that he had felt discomfort in his neck for a few weeks and thought some neck stretches might help. But as he was stretching his neck, he “heard a pop” and his left side went numb. Hader was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors determined he’d torn an artery in his neck and had a stroke.
Specifically, Hader’s neck-cracking caused a tear in one of the major arteries supplying blood to the brain, a condition known as a cervical artery dissection. A stroke can occur if a blood clot forms at the site of the tear and blocks the flow of blood to the brain.
Luckily, ER doctors were able to treat Hader with a drug known as tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which dissolves blood clots. With help from physical therapy, he was on his feet and walking within a matter of weeks.
So Is It Ever Ok To Crack My Stiff Neck?
For 99.9999% of people, cracking your neck won’t lead to injury. Vertebral artery dissections associated with cracking your neck are incredibly rare, but they do happen, and in general it’s not a good idea to try to do it yourself.
When they do, they’re usually a result of cervical extension (tilting your head back) in combination with rotation (twisting your neck). This is also the reason why at Ascent Chiropractic we always adjust the cervical spine in flexion, and never in extension.
So if you absolutely must ‘pop’, avoid extension and rotation of your neck, which puts increased tension on your cervical vertebral arteries.
A better idea? Leave it to the professionals – your chiropractor. Which leads us to the next question:
Is It Safe For A Chiropractor To Adjust Your Neck?
Over the years, certain reports in the media have suggested or stated outright that chiropractic adjustments can lead to strokes.
But the truth is that the risk of injury resulting from chiropractic is ridiculously low. The best available estimates place the likelihood of complications following a spinal manipulation at 1 in 3,000,000.
But even then, correlation doesn’t mean causation. A 2008 study from the European Spine Journal showed that the rate of stroke following a chiropractic appointment was no different than the rate of stroke following a visit to a family physician.
A 2016 review and meta-analysis of chiropractic care and stroke by a team of medical doctors from the Penn State Department of Neurology also concluded that “there is no convincing evidence to support a causal link between chiropractic manipulation and cervical artery dissection.”
Now compare that to the risk of death from taking NSAIDs/aspirin, which is estimated to be 1 in 6,500 individuals, or any of the other interventions in the infographic below, and the choice between seeing a chiropractor to fix the problem or continuing to pop meds to hide the symptoms suddenly becomes easy.
The Bottom Line
At Ascent Chiropractic we’re committed to not just relieving that stiff neck but to correcting it’s cause and optimizing your body to function better than it ever has before. Our unique, low-force, evidence-based approach to chiropractic care combined with the best of physical rehabilitation therapies allows us to get unmatched, long-term results.
Discover the difference personalized, comprehensive care at Ascent Chiropractic makes. Instead of just fixing your pain, let’s fix you. To schedule an appointment, call us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.
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