Woman in her 20s has stroke, brain injury after chiropractic neck manipulation

A young lady’s story is rare, but still familiar.

Darlene Jensen, in her 20s, had recently graduated from college with a degree in biology and chemistry, and had a promising career and life ahead of her. She had neck tension from sitting at her desk studying and decided to see a chiropractor to help loosen everything up.

Over a two-month period, she saw the chiropractor a few times. One Thursday morning, she went for a follow-up appointment for what she thought would be a routine neck adjustment.

It ended up being anything but routine.

What is a chiropractor

Chiropractors aren’t physicians. They can’t prescribe medications. They’re called “Doctor”, though, because they hold a doctoral degree (D.C., or doctor of chiropractic) from a chiropractic college. As a side note, nurse practitioners and physician assistants may hold doctoral degrees and may go by “Doctor,” but they aren’t physicians either.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, chiropractors are licensed healthcare professionals who focus on the body’s ability to heal itself. Most chiropractic therapy involves manipulating the spine. The Center explains that “The manual treatment methods used by chiropractors range from stretching and sustained pressure to specific joint manipulations, which are usually delivered by hand and involve a quick and gentle thrust.”

Many people with acute or chronic neck and back conditions choose chiropractic care and have some pain relief from manipulations.

What happens when a chiropractic manipulation isn’t “quick and gentle”?

Darlene walked into the chiropractic office for a neck manipulation. Within minutes of the chiropractic treatment, she was in an ambulance. Her mom described her as sweaty, nauseated, vomiting, and having speech that wasn’t right.

The ambulance took her to the hospital. Within an hour of her chiropractic treatment, physicians found that she had experienced a stroke. It was a stroke so bad that she had to be placed on a ventilator. The stroke apparently didn’t affect her ability to think clearly, but she can’t speak, swallow, or breathe normally.

One of the risks of any sudden thrust of the neck, including chiropractic manipulation, is that it can damage the vertebral arteries that run through the spinal column of the neck to deliver blood to the brain and spinal cord. There are vertebral arteries on the right and left side of the spinal column in the neck.

According to a peer-reviewed study in the journal Stroke: Vascular and Interventional Neurology, 1 in 20,000 chiropractic spinal manipulations result in aneurysm or dissection to a vertebral artery. Experts believe the risk is heightened when a chiropractic neck manipulation isn’t quick and gentle, but rather involves the use of excessive force.

When a vertebral artery is compromised through dissection or aneurysm, blood collects within the wall of the artery and clots. That alters blood flow and may eventually lead to a stroke.

As I said in the beginning, Darlene’s story is both rare yet familiar. We’ve heard similar stories from clients who had strokes after routine chiropractic care. If you’ve been seriously injured because of aggressive chiropractic care in Texas, 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.