Are you experiencing neck pain, severe headache, arm numbness, and/or arm weakness? What condition does this sound like? Stroke, right? Wait, what? You thought we were going to say nerve interference, didn’t you? You are not wrong, but these are also symptoms of a stroke. In this week’s blog, we are going to identify what a stroke is, discuss the chiropractic stroke myth, and explain what chiropractors can do to help a possible stroke patient.
What is a Stroke?
There are two different types of strokes:
- Ischemic Stroke- Occurs when there is a lack of blood being supplied to the brain. It is caused by blockage of an artery such as plaque around the artery or a blood clot.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke- Occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures causing bleeding in the brain. This is caused by high blood pressure or aging.
A specialized MRI of the brain and angiogram would be able to identify what type of stroke is present, but symptoms are the same in either case. Symptoms include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, neck pain, blurred vision, loss of balance, numbness, weakness on one side of your body, face drooping on one side, slurred speech, and confusion. Stroke victims can have all these symptoms or one symptom.
The Chiropractic Stroke Myth
Did you notice that a lot of the symptoms listed previously are the most common symptoms that chiropractors successfully treat every day? Headaches, dizziness, neck pain, blurred vision when associated with a headache, arm weakness, arm numbness, and nausea are all symptoms of nerve interference.
So why are chiropractors blamed for patients having a stroke? The media suggests that the forceful manipulation ruptured the vertebrobasilar artery causing the stroke. Included at the end of this blog are the two largest studies on chiropractic manipulation and relation to stroke. Both peer-reviewed published studies concluded that chiropractic cannot cause a stroke. There is not enough human force for the vertebrobasilar artery to be dissected by spinal manipulation.
Let’s quickly run through a scenario. A 60-year-old male walks into a doctor’s office complaining of the worst headache he has ever experienced, along with lightheadedness, double vision, and he is slurring his speech. He weighs 255lbs and is a Type II diabetic. The doctor sends him home instructing him to take ibuprofen. Later that evening, the man’s wife calls 911 saying her husband is having a stroke.
This scenario is straightforward, right? Unfortunately, this scenario happens frequently in reality. What is the main procedure the doctor in the scenario did not do? He did not take an exam. When a medical doctor or chiropractor fails to conduct a proper examination or one at all, they are held accountable. The examination not only saves the doctor from losing his license to practice, but more importantly, it could save a patient’s life.
What Can Chiropractors Do to Better Assist a Possible Stroke Patient?
All doctors are trained to recognize if a patient is having a stroke. Doctors of every field are educated to perform an accurate patient health history and orthopedic examination to better formulate a diagnosis. This examination should include a stroke evaluation, which requires checking blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels, auscultating carotid arteries and subclavian arteries bilaterally for any bruits, and performing a specific test that requires occlusion of the arteries to the brain. The doctor should also check muscle strength, sensory deficits, identify facial drooping, listen for slurred speech, and stay alert for cognitive impairment.
At our facility, we conduct a thorough examination in the region of complaint. Every cervical patient we examine goes through a routine stroke evaluation. If we conclude a patient may be experiencing a stroke, we will not adjust any region of the spine and get them to the emergency room as soon as possible.
Can a Stroke Victim Be Adjusted After They Have Recovered?
This is a great question that patients ask. The answer is yes. We have several new patients who previously had a stroke and became a part of our family. Fun fact: Dr. Steinert experienced a stroke in utero and has been receiving routine chiropractic care his entire life. Adjusting a stroke patient will not induce another stroke or make a patient worse, but rather, it will get the patient better.
For more information or questions about stroke and chiropractic, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and checkout our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content.
Yours In Health,
Larry E. Wilkins, DC
Brian M. Steinert, DC
Cassidy, J. “Risk of Vertebrobasilar Stroke and Chiropractic Care: Results of a Population-Based Case-Control and Case-Crossover Study.” European Spine Journal. 2008 Apr; 17(Suppl 1): 176–183.
Kosloff, T. “Chiropractic Care and the Risk of Vertebrobasilar Stroke: Results of a Case–Control Study in U.S. Commercial and Medicare Advantage Populations.” Journal of Chiropractic and Manual Therapies. 2015 Jun 16. doi: 10.1186/s12998-015-0063-x.