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Science, Art, and Philosophy of Chiropractic

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Chiropractic causes stroke?

Can a chiropractor cause a stroke?

This question has been a long and tortuous battle between the medical profession and chiropractic for many years. The result was that the chiropractic profession was put through the judicial court systems by the medical profession claiming chiropractors to be an unscientific cult. The result was chiropractic did not lose in court and the profession itself is much more accepted today than it was 100 years ago.

Popular media has taken up this on this drama between the professions and pulled out the story of chiropractic adjustment can cause a stroke. As this was inflammatory to the social media decades ago, it is the same today. Many writers and journalists misused scientific study that is published in a peer-reviewed journal as a rigorous research when sometimes it is just merely editorials expressing opinions.

Barber’s Haircut caused a Heart Attack?

Another common misuse of information is equating correlation with cause and effect. There is a logical fallacy where one event follows another, the first event caused the second event. This can be a basis for logical errors and superstitions. One can have myocardial infarction right after visiting the barber shop, then the barber cutting the hair caused the myocardial infarction. If we really wanted to force this argument, we can compile undisputed medical evidence of heart attack within weeks after visiting the barbershop. Now if we apply this to the issue of chiropractic adjustment and strokes it is another consideration.


This research from Neurology describes this logical fallacy with some of the research materials that were written in a published journal.

There was a survey when neurologists were asked the number of patients evaluated over the preceding of two years who suffered a neurologic complication within 24 hours of receiving a “chiropractic manipulation.” Fifty-five strokes were reported. The author stated, “Patients, physicians, and chiropractors should be aware of the risk of neurological complications associated with chiropractic manipulation.” (Lee K: “Neurologic complications following chiropractic manipulation: a survey  of California neurologist.” Neurology 1995; 45:1213)

From a research standpoint, establishing a chiropractic manipulation causes stroke as a statement is very difficult. As Chesnut states: “A review of the literature regarding the relationship between chiropractic and stroke provides very little useful information. The vast majority of the published literature is comprised of case studies, case series, or case-control studies, none of which are capable of providing valid information regarding causation or risk. These type of studies can, of course, provide useful information with regard to suggesting a direction of future research, but they should never be interpreted as a valid means of determining causality. The only valid conclusion that can be reached from review of the available literature is that due to methodological shortcomings, there are literally no scientifically valid data that establish chiropractic adjustment as either a cause of stroke or as being associated with and increased risk of stroke.” (Chestnut J: The stroke issue: Paucity of valid data, plethora of unsubstantiated conjecture. J. Manipulative Physiol Ther 2004; 27; 368-72. )

There is no research article that has proven the relationship between chiropractic manipulation and stroke. We don’t have a method that proves this relationship regardless of opinion. There is more research on how chiropractic is not related to stroke. Jaskoviak reported that not a single case of vertebral artery stroke occurred in approximately five million cervical “manipulations” at the National College of Chiropractic Clinic from 1965 to 1980. (Jaskoviac P Complications arising from manipulation of the cervical spine. J Manipulative Physio Ther 1980;3:213.)


There are some research studies that include “manipulations” administered by Kung Fu practitioner, osteopaths, physiotherapists, a wife, a blind masseur, and an Indian barber were all incorrectly associated with chiropractors. Terrett stated that the words of chiropractic and chiropractor have been incorrectly used in numerous publications with injuries by medical authors from respected medical journals and organizations. (Terett AGJ: Misuse of the literature by medical authors in discussing spinal manipulative therapy injury. J Manipuative Physiol Ther 1995; 18:203.)

9780312374808This is what we call junk science being put up as legitimate science. Poor correlations from a biased scientific method in a published research do not produce a conclusion of chiropractic will cause a stroke. Every chiropractic adjustment does not correlate with a risk of a stroke. It is time to replace yellow journalism with scientific investigation. In fact, Cassidy’s studies suggest that people with a stroke in progress may visit a chiropractor complaining of a headache and/or neck pain. Neither a physician or chiropractor caused the stroke. (Cassidy JD, Boyle E, Cote P. et al : Risk of Vertebrobasilar stroke and Chiropractic Care. Results of a Population-Based Case-Control and Case-Crossover Study. Spine 2008;33(4S)S176-S183. )


Chiropractic has been associated with stroke from reports of medical literature for decades. The recent popular media seem to have led some gullible audience to accept this false and junk science at face value. Let’s be careful and examine that it will reveal the poor correlation between chiropractic and stroke. Stroke can happen anywhere at anytime and impossible to predict. Strokes can happen equally anyplace even at a coffee shop. So are you going to blame the coffee or maybe the chiropractor you saw a couple of days ago?

Most likely people blame chiropractors for stroke is because they are avoiding or spreading the liability when it happens in their clinic/hospital.



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Good, Bad, and the Ugly. Crack My Neck for Relieving Pain.

There are many situations where your spine will crack on its own or intentionally cracking them. The cracking of the spine in any different situations has an effect that can be good, bad, or ugly.


After a certain time period of a Chiropractic adjustment, the spine tends to realign the other vertebra on their own. Most likely the other vertebra was not in the right position are starting to go in the right position by themselves. When your body introduces any kind of force, such as when you are doing light stretching, turning, bending the spine realign. There is nothing to fear but to let your Chiropractor know what happened. Check out the former blog about this topic:


When your spine pops and pain follows immediately then the joint became unstable and causing inflammation and muscle spasm. Even if you didn’t put much stress or any motion on the spine something pops and then the muscles around are creating spasms and sharp pain. Often times these situations are the vertebra was already starting to fall out of place and it was a matter of time when it went out of position. In this case, put ice on the area and get to a Chiropractor that will use x-ray, neurological exams, and education on what has happened and properly adjust that vertebra.


The unprofessional person intentionally twisting of the neck or low back of themselves or to others may create the cracking noise but then they will cause tendon and ligament to tear and create more instability. Over twisting the neck without proper examinations and professional skill then people are at risk possibly damaging artery integrity that is already weakened and may cause cardiovascular problems in the brain. The mistake is to think that by over twisting the joint the crack is more intense and the better you feel.

26real_450That cracking noise is not what Chiropractic is defined by but that is a very big misunderstanding. Cracking in your joints creates an endorphin response that gives you a euphoria for a moment but does not solve the actual joint problem. Properly correcting your spine takes a long training from a graduate level school and getting a state license. A grand total of 4485 hours of clinic hours with health science education. Many people attempt cracking their neck and low back themselves or ask others that are not professionals to crack their spine.

There are many other professional and non-professionals that try to say that they do chiropractic. Professionals such as massage therapists, physical therapists, sports therapists, and even some medical doctors to copy chiropractic because they know how effective Chiropractic care is. Non-professionals such as your friends, families, people you meet at the bar or parties, or any individual that offer to crack your spine or neck on the street. This is why people have an incidence of having a very bad experience with cracking their neck or back because they think it is just cracking is what helps the person. People could get damage to their muscles and ligaments, and damage to the artery structure in the neck.

gonstead and spine

Dr. Gonstead’s Story:

Dr. Gonstead once had a farmer couple come to his office. The wife of this farmer was in a lot of back pain. Dr. Gonstead found the problem after careful analysis and adjusted the spine and told them to come back next week. The former couple did not come back. In fact, they didn’t come back for months. Then the farmer couple came back and the wife of the farmer was in a lot worse back pain. Dr. Gonstead analyzed again and it was much worse condition than before, so he asked the wife what happened. The farmer’s wife confessed that her husband tried to copy Dr. Gonstead after watching him adjust his wife after they went back home. They thought they could do the adjustment themselves not knowing how much science and careful skill that Chiropractic adjustment involved.


There are many occasions were your spine will crack on its own. Some are fine because it is the process of our body to correct and heal itself. Some are bad because the spine got very unstable and finally went out of place. The worse is just because you want to feel the euphoria and cracking your neck or low back and causing a major set back of unstable joints does not help yourselves or the person you are trying to help. You could even cause serious damage to yourself or to others. It is not about cracking your neck and it is not about being a crack dealer for people. If it is about helping people, you should become a Chiropractor or go seek one to help your friend. They will find the cause and stabilize the situation.