Over the past 5 years, the relationship between chiropractic neck adjustments and stroke have been revealed. It isn’t that chiropractors are causing vertebral artery dissection and stroke (VADS), but rather the patient is having a VADS and sees a chiropractor for the associated pain.

This is a positive thing for patients and chiropractors alike because patients have less reason to be afraid of getting their neck adjusted by a skilled chiropractor. While there are risks in any medical procedure, including getting adjusted by a chiropractor, the risk of a neck adjustment causing an adverse reaction is less than the risk of taking Advil for neck pain.

However, it is important that we take advantage of this research and be more aware of the confounding relationship between stroke and neck pain. I know I will be more diligent about screening San Francisco patients and referring them to the ER if they describe the pain as different from their usual headaches. This is not an absolute rule though, which is why you need to see a professional (such as myself) when you have headaches.

Questions I will ask. Have you been experiencing::
blurred vision?

double vision?

trouble swallowing or speaking?


fainting spells?


trouble with walking or balance?

numbness in your hands or feet?

Murphy; Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010

There are a number of important points in regards to VADS according to the study:

1. VADS is a rare but potentially serious disorder.

2. Some of the initial symptoms of this disorder can mimic more common and relatively benign neck and headache problems.

3. Because of this, diagnosis can be difficult, so some individuals and their health care providers are not aware that they are experiencing VADS.

4. However, there can often be subtle signs and symptoms that may alert a health care provider to the possibility of VADS

5. If you experience any of these signs and symptoms inform your health care provider immediately or call your local emergency service.

I try to remain up-to-date on the most recent research which may help me treat you more effectively, or in the case of stroke and VADS, refer you to a proper practitioner after a brief neurological exam.