Chiropractic neck manipulation and medical malpractice

For many people, chiropractors are the go-to providers of choice for back and neck pain. 

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health, chiropractors are licensed healthcare providers who emphasize the body’s ability to heal itself. Chiropractors often focus their care on the musculoskeletal system, using manual therapy and spinal manipulation to attempt to restore spinal alignment and improve joint motion.

Despite the popularity of chiropractic care, it doesn't come without risk.

Vertebral artery dissection

One of the most dangerous potential complications of chiropractic manipulation or adjustment of the neck is vertebral artery dissection. Chiropractors manipulate or adjust the cervical spine by forcing short, quick movements. 

The vertebral arteries are an important part of the circulatory system, supplying blood to the brain and spine. To reach the brain, the vertebral arteries pass inside the spinal column of the neck on both left and right sides.

When a chiropractor uses too much force or pushes or turns the neck too far, it can cause a dangerous and potentially deadly dissection of a vertebral artery. 

A vertebral artery dissection occurs when there’s a tear in the inner lining of the vertebral artery. Blood flowing in the artery then accumulates in the arterial wall, which can slow down or cut off blood flow. If a clot breaks loose and flows to the brain, it can cause a stroke.

The anatomical path of the vertebral artery as it travels up the neck puts it in particular risk to mechanical injury at the level of the lowest cervical vertebra. There, at the C1 level, there’s a higher risk of dissection from too must pressure, force, or twisting during a chiropractic manipulation or adjustment.

Stroke after chiropractic care

Some studies have found that 1 in 20,000 chiropractic cervical spine (neck) manipulations cause a stroke. Vertebral artery dissection is one of most common cause of stroke in patients who are under 45 years old. In addition to chiropractic manipulation, other types of blunt trauma can cause a dissection. 

Some studies have correlated chiropractic neck adjustments to strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) that occur within minutes or weeks.

Symptoms of a problem

We’ve investigated a number of cases where patients experienced sudden symptoms after a cervical spine manipulation by a chiropractor. Common symptoms include the sudden headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and new and different pain.

Chiropractors should discuss and disclose the known risks of stroke, TIA, and death posed by chiropractic cervical spine manipulations during the informed consent process. If a chiropractor uses excessive force or poor technique when performing a neck manipulation, it may be medical malpractice. So, too, is the failure to recognize the signs and symptoms of vertebral dissection or stroke and to refer a patient to a hospital for emergency medical care.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of a chiropractic injury in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.