For years, the myth has been perpetrated that self-manipulating your neck, or seeking relief from a chiropractor when you get the urge to crack it, can lead to a sudden stroke. We’re going to delve into the truth behind the myth and examine the evidence to find out what really happens when you crack your neck.
Recently, a 28-year-old man was rushed to the hospital after cracking his neck and suffering a major stroke. Josh Hader was merely twisting his neck (as he often did) to relieve tension and discomfort when he heard a popping sound and tore his vertebral artery, experiencing a life-threatening stroke.
Vertebral artery dissection (VAD) or Cervical arterial dissection is one of the leading causes of stroke in people under 45. This is when one of the two arteries that are in the back of the neck and connected to the brain starts to tear. The artery lining begins to bleed and forms a blood clot which enters the brain and causes a stroke.
Cervical arterial dissection can be caused by blunt trauma to the neck and is often associated with cracking your neck. But that is not the only cause. In fact, experts say other activities “including sneezing, violent coughing, turning the head while driving, kneeling at prayer, yoga, and sexual intercourse” can all contribute to this condition.
Of course, billions of people engage in these mundane activities every day, and the vast majority do not have a stroke. This isn’t necessarily an excuse to keep self-manipulating, as undue pressure on the neck is never healthy or safe, and adjustment should only be performed by a professional. Even then, manipulation should be gentle with no rapid movements.
What is the connection to the chiropractor?
Many people are scared to visit the chiropractor due to the swirling rumors of neck cracking and stroke. Experts have posited that most of the documented cases of stroke following a chiropractor visit are not necessarily causative. In fact, according to the study, “some patients visiting chiropractic clinics with complaints of head and neck pain may have undiagnosed VAD. These patients may undergo cervical spinal manipulation for this pain, further complicating their VAD through a thromboembolic event. This can lead to the assumption that manipulation caused the dissection.”
Chiropractors need to be aware of the symptoms of VAD to prevent performing a dangerous manipulation that could lead to stroke due to an already torn artery. They should take a thorough patient history, recognize the warning signs, and recommend an immediate emergency room visit to anyone exhibiting signs of VAD as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause of their pain.
The bottom line
Though it is not necessarily a direct correlation to stroke, cracking your neck can increase your chances of having VAD, simply because any sudden movement of the neck could cause an arterial tear. Avoid cracking your neck as much as possible, and stick to gentle stretching to help relieve tension.
A well-trained, professional chiropractor should perform adjustments that don’t put you at risk for VAD and should be able to work on tight pressure points without forcefully cranking on your neck.
Other causes of stroke
- High blood pressure: The most significant cause of stroke and is usually managed with medication.
- Tobacco: The nicotine in chewing tobacco or cigarettes can cause your blood pressure to increase, cause a fatty buildup in your main neck artery, and thicken your blood, making you more likely to develop a clot. If you smoke, stop now.
- Heart disease: Heart disease is usually characterized by defective heart valves and clogged arteries from fatty deposits, which could lead to a blood clot. Stick to a healthy diet and exercise regularly to avoid developing heart disease.
- Birth control pills: Hormonal contraception can increase the chance of developing a blood clot in otherwise healthy women.
- Weight: Your chances of stroke increase if you are overweight. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise and avoid processed food.
A stoke could strike anyone at any time, and rapid action and emergency care are essential to help restore blood flow and reduce permanent damage. Keep in mind the acronym F.A.S.T. for stroke symptoms. F.A.S.T. stands for facial droop, arm weakness, slurred speech, and “time to call 911.”
-The Alternative Daily