Chiropractic treatment is among the safest treatments available for neck pain.
Neck pain and headaches are among the symptoms treated by chiropractors. Cervical adjustments, or precise spinal manipulations, work to improve range of motion and joint mobility, reducing pain and muscle tension. These “adjustments” are a remarkably safe procedure, even when compared to other most conservative treatment options.
Some reports have associated these adjustments with a certain very rare kind of stroke, or vertebral artery dissection. However, evidence suggests that this type of dissection or stroke takes place spontaneously in the general population and at no higher a rate among those that treat with a chiropractor. In fact, some studies have shown this type of stroke to occur less frequently among those who treat with a chiropractor as opposed to those in the general population. These dissections have been associated with everyday activities such as turning the head while driving, swimming, or even having your hair shampooed in a hair salon.
Patients with this condition may experience neck pain or headache, leading them to seek out professional care, such as with a chiropractor or with a family physician. If the stroke isn’t identified, it can progress and worsen, though the treatment itself was not the cause. This is why it is very important to be as detailed as possible about the pain you are having with your family physician or chiropractor. This will help your chiropractor or family doctor to offer the safest and most effective treatment possible, even if it involves a referral to another type of health care provider.
The best evidence suggests that this type of injury from a high-velocity adjustment occurs in one person for every one to ten million under a course of care, which is comparable to the occurrence in the general population of those who do not seek out chiropractic care.
When discussing the risks of any health care procedure, it is important to look at that risk in comparison to other treatments available for the same condition. In this regard, the risks of serious complications from spinal manipulation for conditions such as neck pain and headache compare very favorably with even the most conservative care options. For example, the risks associated with some of the most common treatments for neck pain and headaches—over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and prescription painkillers, and even aspirin—are significantly greater than those of chiropractic manipulation.
Doctors of chiropractic are well trained professionals who provide patients with safe, effective care for a variety of common conditions. Their extensive education has prepared them to identify patients who have special risk factors and to get those patients the most appropriate care, even if that requires referral to a medical specialist.