Chiropractor adjusts woman's neck, tears vertebral artery, causes stroke

A Texas attorney recently called Painter Law Firm to refer a client who had some shocking injuries after a chiropractic adjustment. Because medical malpractice is such a complex area of the law, we get referral calls like this frequently and are happy to step in and help.

The story started with a healthy, active woman in her 20s who was sore after a workout at her local gym. Someone from work suggested that she go see a chiropractor, and that’s what she did. She went to a chiropractic clinic and the chiropractor did an adjustment or manipulation to her neck. As soon as she stood up, she became extremely dizzy and nauseated.

This young lady went straight from the chiropractor to a nearby hospital emergency room, where an angiogram study revealed that she had a right vertebral artery dissection. This led to a stroke that caused permanent symptoms including speech, memory, and cognitive/thinking impairments. She hasn’t been able to return to work, and even at this young age may never be able to do so.

Why are chiropractic neck manipulations risky?

As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve investigated a number of chiropractic cases. From this experience, I’ve learned that the right vertebral artery, which runs up the back side of the neck into the back of the skull, is particularly vulnerable and at-risk to a sudden and forceful twist, rotation, or manipulation of the neck. When a chiropractor manhandles the patient or uses too much force, it can stretch the right vertebral artery and tear the blood vessel’s lining.

A blood clot then forms to cover the tear in the artery. If the blood clot breaks loose and travels upstream to block a small artery that supplies the brain, it’s a stroke that can have devastating consequences.

What are the symptoms to be aware of?

This lady had the classic symptoms of vertigo and dizziness, which are associated with a vertebral artery dissection after a chiropractic cervical (neck) manipulation. She was absolutely correct to go straight to the emergency room, where providers could diagnose the vertebral artery dissection with a CT or MRI scan enhanced with contrast.

Vertebral artery dissection medical malpractice

If the chiropractor causes a vertebral artery dissection, it’s likely because of poor technique and would be medical malpractice.

While chiropractic manipulations of the neck are known to cause vertebral artery dissections, other blunt injuries can do so as well. Other potential causes of vertebral artery dissection include a recent car wreck, sports injury, or even a wild roller coaster ride. I’ve handled multiple medical malpractice cases where physicians failed to obtain a complete patient history and timely diagnose the dissection, but instead settled on less-serious causes for the patient’s symptoms, like a headache. That can be a devastating mistake!

If you have symptoms of vertigo or dizziness, particularly associated with nausea and vomiting, it’s important to get to the hospital and get checked out. Be sure to tell the doctor and nurse about any recent chiropractic adjustment or anything that involved a hit or twist to the head and neck.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of poor chiropractic or medical care, click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.

All consultations are free, and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, and Waco.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

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.