Harvard Heart Letter

Chiropractic neck adjustments linked to stroke

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Two pairs of blood vessels in the neck (the cervical arteries) carry blood to the brain. A tear in the lining of one of these vessels, called a cervical artery dissection, is rare, occurring in just one to three in 100,000 people per year. Still, it's one of the most common causes of stroke in people under the age of 50. The tear can occur spontaneously, after some sort of injury to the neck, or even during sports such as weight lifting or golf.

Now, the American Heart Association (AHA) warns of another possible cause: the quick, thrusting neck movements some chiropractors and other health care professionals use to treat neck pain. The technique, known as cervical manipulative therapy, has been linked to cervical dissections in younger people, according to an AHA statement published in the October 2014 Stroke. It's not clear whether the neck therapy causes the problem or if the pain from a tear might prompt people to seek out such treatment. But people at risk of cardiovascular disease should be extra cautious about getting cervical manipulative therapy.

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