The Truth About Chiropractic Neck Adjustments
The safety of chiropractic care is usually called into question with the most common and most helpful chiropractic adjustment of the neck and upper spine. Generally, any concerns about this adjustment are unfounded and merely a convenient access point used by a handful of chiropractic detractors or those ignorant of the truth.
The brain stem extends down into the upper bones of the neck, and the uppermost spinal vertebra lacks the disc spacing of other spinal bones. This nerve-rich area of the upper neck can have profound neurological effects throughout the body. That’s why chiropractors give the neck special attention.
Bones, Nerves and Vessels of the Neck
Chiropractic critics like to point out that besides housing the spinal cord, the upper six bones of the neck also provide openings for the passage of the vertebral arteries, which transport oxygenated blood to the head. They believe that chiropractic adjustments to the neck can cause damage to these blood vessels and prompt a stroke or similar complication.
Such an event is rare and largely the made up up in the imaginations of violent Hollywood movie producers and macho video game characters. The truth is, today’s chiropractic neck adjustments are far more mild, precise and effective than that. If they weren’t, chiropractic would most certainly have disappeared decades ago.
Stroke and Chiropractic
Besides patients and chiropractors, neck adjustment safety is the interest of another group of individuals: actuaries. Wherever there is risk, there are individuals hired to study it and predict it. It’s no surprise that most actuaries work for insurance companies. Their job is to study the data, compute the risk and protect the carrier from unprofitable loss.
In 2001, a major insurance company serving chiropractors published Current Concepts in Vertebrobasilar Complications Following Spinal Manipulation. The objective was to objectively assess the safety of chiropractic care. Among the 19 conclusions, the first one sums up the findings in one sentence: “Verebrobasilar complications (stroke) following spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic adjustment) are very rare.” Because of its proven safety, malpractice insurance for chiropractors is a mere fraction of the cost that medical practitioners pay.
Chiropractic Neck Adjustments and Stroke
The same study offered this finding that the risk of stroke following chiropractic care “…is about one in 25 chiropractic practitioners during a 40-year practicing career.”
A typical chiropractor that delivers neck adjustments sees about 50 patients a day. Some more. Some less. Most chiropractors practice four days a week. Some more. Some less. In a typical week that would be 200 chiropractic neck adjustments. With vacations that’s about 10,000 neck adjustments per year. In the course of a 40-year career, that’s about 400,000 chiropractic neck adjustments. So, spread out among 25 different chiropractors, that’s one stroke in 10,000,000 neck adjustments.
Driving your car to the grocery store is far more risky!
Chiropractors Are Safe
When the government of New Zealand was considering including chiropractic care in its socialized medicine plan, it conducted a rigorous examination of the profession. The result was published in a landmark book, which concluded that chiropractic “…is remarkably safe.”
Read on for frequently asked questions about chiropractic safety »