The International Chiropractors Association (ICA) performed a review of scientific and clinical literature pertaining to the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic. Their findings show a unique safety record that few other professions enjoy. Some media have made claims regarding the risk of seeing a chiropractor leading to stroke. However, the data shows a much different situation. Some of the findings are actually quite dramatic in their proof of the safety of chiropractic care.
“This review noted that sixty percent of strokes occur due to an abnormal amount of lipids (cholesterol and/or fat) in the blood. Smoking, hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, types 1 & 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, migraines, heavy drinking, infections, contraceptives, sleep apnea, illicit drug use, and other factors also put a person at higher risk for stroke. Chiropractic adjustments or SMTs are not listed in the scientific literature as a major factor in stroke. The researcher Tuchin explained, “The evidence for causality of vertebral artery dissection from chiropractic is weak.””
- The Canadian Medical Association Journal (2001) reviewed the malpractice data from the Canadian Chiropractic Protective Association (CCPA) between 1988 and 1997 on stroke claims following Chiropractic treatment. Results showed that 134 million adjustments were performed and only 23 cases involved stroke. “This most recent study establishes such an extremely low degree of risk that patients can feel confident about the safety of neck manipulations performed by chiropractors,” according to Paul Carey, DC, lead author of the study and president of the CCPA. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2001, 165(7) 905-8.
- A study published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association found 13 documented cerebrovascular accidents occurring in chiropractic patients over a five-year period with some 50 million cervical adjustments performed. The author concluded that a reasonable estimate of risk was low at only 1 per 3 million neck adjustments. [i]
- A review of more than a half-million treatments over a nine-year period at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College outpatient clinic found no incidents of strokes. (“Vertebral Artery Syndrome” published in the book “Upper Cervical Syndrome: chiropractic diagnosis and treatment).[ii]
- Not a single case of vertebral artery stroke was found during a study which involved approximately 5 million cervical manipulations from 1965 to 1980 at the National College of Chiropractic Clinic in Chicago. [iii]
Patient safety should always be the primary concern for all health care providers. Research such as that noted above shows that chiropractic is a safe alternative to more invasive treatment. As with any medical procedure, there will be individuals for whom chiropractic care may not an appropriate treatment.
Doctors of chiropractic are well trained to recognize and consider a patient’s risk factors before recommending a course of treatment. The extensive education of today’s chiropractor, before graduation as well as annual continuing education, ensures that doctors are skilled in providing excellent healthcare safely, effectively, and naturally. If you have any questions, feel free to discuss your care with your doctor of chiropractic.