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Neck Pain

FAQs: Neck Pain


Is it safe to adjust the neck?

Just as the medical profession in general must be completely certain that the care they provide is safe, so too must the chiropractic profession. Few medical treatments have been scrutinized in as much detail as chiropractic. The safety and effectiveness of chiropractic treatment has been studied very carefully.

Complications from chiropractic treatments are rare. Your chiropractor will discuss all potential side effects and any risks along with the benefits of the care you receive. If your chiropractor diagnoses a problem that would be better treated by another health care professional, he or she will make an appropriate referral.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association (http://files.chiropractic.on.ca/_att/c14e02e0-1a84-43b3-a416-4ea88b4a0843/md_cervicalmanipulation_handout.pdf) states the following:

 “The most recent research into this association was published by the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders in Spine in 2008.2 The study — which analyzed a total of 818 VBA strokes that met the inclusion/exclusion criteria over the 9-year inception period in Ontario — concludes that VBA stroke from any cause is a very rare event and that the risk of VBA stroke associated with a visit to a chiropractor’s office appears to be no different from the risk of VBA stroke following a visit to a family physician’s office.  The study concludes that the association between VBA stroke and chiropractic care is most likely due to patients with headache and/or neck pain from a VBA dissection seeking care in the prodrome of a stroke.  A British study of more than 19,000 chiropractic patients encompassing over 50,000 cervical spine manipulations published in October 2007 in Spine found “no reports of serious adverse events.”  Similarly, an extensive commentary on chiropractic care, published in the February 2002 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine states the following with regard to the safety of cervical adjustment: “Noserious complication has been noted in more than 73 controlled clinical trials or in any prospectively evaluated case series to date.” A Canadian study, published in 2001 in Stroke, also concludes that stroke associated with cervical adjustment is so rare that it is difficult to calculate an accurate risk ratio.5 The study authors have stated that the association “…is smaller than that associated with many commonly used diagnostic tests or prescription drugs.”

Recent research into the association between cervical adjustment and stroke has also involved biomechanical studies to assess what strain, if any, cervical adjustment may place on the vertebral arteries. The findings indicate that cervical adjustment is done well within the normal range of motion and that cervical adjustment is “very unlikely to mechanically disrupt the VA [vertebral artery].”

Rothwell DM, Bondy SJ, Williams JI. Chiropractic manipulation and stroke: A population-based, case-controlled study.