Metro woman believes her stroke was related to chiropractic manipulation of neck

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Just looking at Genny Hale, you wouldn't know she had a stroke in January. But there are effects you can't see.

"I can't handle several different people talking at once. I can't handle multi-tasking," said Hale.

The day before the stroke, Hale had her monthly chiropractic adjustment.

"When he manipulated my neck to the left side, it didn't crack like it usually did," said Hale.

The next day, she went to the emergency room after suffering sudden arm numbness and dizziness.

"That's one of the first questions they asked -- if I had ever seen a chiropractor," said Hale.

Dr. Karin Olds, a neurologist at Saint Luke's Neuroscience Institute, says there's a reason for that question.

"Yes, chiropractic manipulation of the neck can cause a stroke," said Dr. Olds.

Dr. Olds didn't treat Hale, but says she has treated others who've had strokes following neck adjustments.

"When the neck can be torqued in a manipulation or any other type of injury, it can cause a tear in the inner lining which is what we call a dissection," said Dr. Olds.

It's a vertebral artery dissection. A clot forms, blocking blood flow to the brain. Dr. Olds says it's rare, but can happen immediately or up to a few days later. A search of medical literature finds reports of dissection following chiropractic manipulation.

But in a statement to FOX 4, Dr. Keith Overland, Immediate Past President of the American Chiropractic Association, said, "The largest research study to date on this issue -- which used nearly a decade's worth of data -- shows there is no cause-and-effect relation between neck manipulation and stroke."

Dr. Overland says vertebral artery dissection is associated with a number of everyday activities, and he adds that those already experiencing stroke symptoms often visit a chiropractor for treatment.

Hale says she'd had a mild headache before she went for her regularly scheduled appointment.

"It's possible what happened on that Tuesday is maybe the clot broke loose off of the dissection that had been forming over months and months of having the manipulations," said Hale.

Dr. Olds tells people to talk to their chiropractors about risks and benefits of neck manipulation. Hale says beware.

"I do think it should be given a second thought if you're about to have one done," said Hale.

She adds that if you have symptoms such as numbness or dizziness, get medical help quickly.

Last year, we told you about another metro woman who believed her stroke was related to deep tissue massage of her neck. Dr. Olds says it can also occur after whiplash from a car crash or even from a roller coaster ride.

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26 comments

  • Brian

    There is no cause-effect relationship between chiropractic adjustments and stroke.

    “A search of medical literature finds reports of dissection following chiropractic manipulation.”

    Including the following study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2271108/?report=reader

    “We found no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated [with] chiropractic care compared to primary care.”

    In other words, you are no more likely to suffer a stroke after visiting your chiropractor than you are after visiting your medical doctor.

    At the very least, this article is poorly researched. At most, it is irresponsible reporting.

  • Hollee

    Correlation is not causation. Symptoms of a stroke can be as mild as a headache. It is common to see a Doctor of Chiropractic for a headache. This does not mean Chiropractic causes strokes.

    A quick search of the literature shows that patients are no more likely to suffer a stroke from a visit to the Chiropractor than they are a Medical Doctor. Anecdotes do not trump research.

    • Karen

      My youngest sister experienced direct “cause and effect” from a chiropractic manipulation.
      She’d seen the chiropractor for years. Then, one session, the neck manipulation did it. Upon driving away from the chiropractic office, she became dizzy, nauseous, etc. Turned around and went back to the chiro office, seeking assistance.

      Ultimately, into the hospital she went. VAD from Chiro manip.

      Perhaps for some, “anecdotal” doesn’t triumph empirical data. However, when YOU are the individual who does experience the devastation of the VAD, all the empirical data in the world can not provide a safety net.

  • Lisa

    This is poor reporting, they should have done their research before they print something that is false! You are more likely to have a stroke after getting your hair done due to the way they lay your head back in the sink then after a Chiropractic adjustment. Does that mean getting your hair done causes strokes? No and neither does Chiropractic adjustments. Strokes are scary and people want to find a “cause” so they look at what they did before it happened, I’m sure she also drove her car, perhaps driving her car gave her a stroke. See it just doesn’t make sense to make that correlation, and I’m rather disappointed in Fox 4 for printing this, I think a follow up article should be written taking back what was wrongly reported!

  • Dr. Travis Heckes

    I am a Chiropractor and personally think this piece is irresponsible journalism and demonstrated the bias our profession still faces. Where is the piece that talks about known Medical error harms 40,000 people per day! To focus on Chiropractic and stroke than to later minimally acknowledge that many other activities may induce a stroke, even hers, and that she was having headaches in the first place (more likely to have a stroke after leaving a Medical Clinic or a Hair Dresser, not mentioned) negates the entire need for the piece. It would be equivalent to starting every auto accident story with how it may be caused by an unknown manufactures recall… or maybe not.

  • Rachelle

    I personally suffered a stroke in January of 2005 directly following my first (and only) visit to an experienced and personally recommended Chiropractor. I had (and still have) migraine headaches and a friend recommended a Chiropractor to see if it could help. Upon my first visit, I immediately experienced extreme dizziness and vomiting. I also had balance and coordination problems and right sided weakness. It was determined that I had suffered a vertebral artery dissection causing damage to my cerebellum. To all of you who state that the risk of stroke going to your medical doctor is just as great, in my hundreds of previous doctors appointments over the course of my lifetime, I have never suffered any such negative or life threatening consequence as my one and only visit to a Chiropractor.

  • Steve

    One only needs to look at malpractice insurance rates to properly assess perceived risk. Also why have there been no articles concerning medication side effects or hospitalizations as a result of properly taken prescription drugs. The opinion of neurosurgeon who made blanket accusations and conclusions should not have been included as she is not intimately familiar with the case or any research involved in chiropractic adjustments.

  • Anonymous

    Doctor of chiropractic vs doctor of medicine … apples and oranges. Seriously, what medical doctor really supports chiropractic care anyways? How about an article discussing the side effects & potential injuries related to all the vaccines administerdd nowadays? Oh, that’s right .. research shows they are “safe”, which is probably the reason there’s an entire entity which outlines the injury compensation guidelines as a result of “safe” vaccinations.

  • teresa

    give me a break doctors dont like chiropractor but I love them I suffer from scolosis and without them I would be in more pain then I already am. They have to go to school just like a doctor and its for alot of years

  • N

    The same “study” chiros always reference was one done on cadavers. If you visit a chiro for anything, just dont let them adjust your neck. A family member of mine suffered a stroke & was dead 5 days later as a result. Death certificate states cause of death stroke caused by chiro minipulation. Today is the anniversary of her death 6 years ago. Each time we share our story to get awareness out, we learn of someone else who has been effected by this. People should know the risk. It is not rare.

    • snapcrackpopadjust

      Well that’s just false. The fresh cadaver study did show that chiropractic adjustments use less than 1/10 the force required to cause vertebral artery dissection. However, the research I cited above was a case-control and case-crossover study looking at live people who had strokes, and what caused them. There’s plenty more where that came from, too.

      What a growing body of research shows us is that people already experiencing a stroke seek out the care of a chiropractor because of the very symptoms of their stroke.

  • anonyous

    2 and half years ago I went to a chiropractor to see if he could help a sore muscle in my middle back. I went once and came back 4 days later, after leaving that appointment I suffered a Vertebral Artery Dissection leading to a stroke. All the doctors, many of them, agreed the dissection was caused from the rapid neck adjustment. They also said chiropractic care from the neck down is fine. BUT where your artery makes the 90 degree turn and goes inside your vertebral it is vulnerable. It can happen and the risks should be disclosed so people can make their own decisions just like on medication lables.

  • heather

    Regardless of whether you are an advocate of Chiropractic and natural heath care, the fact that she suffered a stroke is very sad. To say it was caused by a chiropractic adjustment seems to be the very problem with the medical field today. Go in with a issue, concern, serious condition and the majority of md’s treat the symptom and not the problem. So for a young lady to have suffered a stroke and to go in and say yes I went to the chirp yesterday, its very easy to point the finger because actually taking the time, to try to uncover for sure the cause which would go against medical/patient appt times its easier to say yes that could be it. Now to fix the problem at hand? No lets put a band aid on it and prescribe drugs which in turn will have side effects that will need another drug to help. Speculation is not fact. Stats are made favorable in various ways to prove the researchers point. The real problem is Chiropractors are doctors as well. As in any profession some are better than others. Chiropractic is more than just adjustments its a way of life, a healthier way that educates their patients on the various natural ways to feel better, live without pain, etc.. To report speculation as fact is poor judgment reporting. Unless of course pzier or some bid drug company is a contributed to the station, because that makes perfect sense! Maybe they upped their normal perks from golf and dinner at the club to a week at one of the resorts that are used to reward health professionals to helping save their patients with there companies drug. I have worked in main stream medical and natural health care and I would much rather see a chiro for pain, headaches, depression, anxiety, weight loss gain, and a host of other things

  • Nick

    There have been many researches done on this matter, and as stated above numerous times, they have all came to similar conclusions. You are no more likely to have a chiropractic adjustment CAUSE a stroke than many other normal everyday routines. Also you are just as likely to have a stroke visiting an MD as you are a Doctor of Chiropractic, as these are the types of facilities that people go to when they are actually exhibiting the SYMPTOMS of a stroke in progress. However the Doctor of Chiropractic is required to discuss risks and benefits of Chiropractic care, and to have an Informed Consent on file that gives them permission to perform any therapy.

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