Statement from the American Chiropractic Association on Neck Manipulation

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Our sympathies go out to the family of Katie May. Without complete information about Ms. May’s history of injury or the treatment that she received at the chiropractic office and at the hospital, it would be inappropriate for us comment on her specific case. In general, however, more research is needed into why young people experience vertebral artery dissections. The exact cause of vertebral artery dissection is often unknown.

Millions of neck manipulations are performed safely in the U.S. every year, providing patients relief from common forms of neck pain and headache, and helping them to get back to their normal activities. The best available evidence today indicates there is no causal relationship between neck manipulation and stroke. Instead, the evidence suggests that those experiencing symptoms of a stroke in progress, such as severe headache and/or neck pain, may visit a chiropractor or a medical doctor for treatment.

Doctors of chiropractic are trained and required to perform a complete health history and physical examination of a patient prior to developing a diagnosis. If there are signs or symptoms of a serious health condition—such as a stroke in progress—our training requires us to refer the patient to the appropriate health care provider or call 911.

If you are visiting a doctor of chiropractic and have upper neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms and include details about any previous injuries.  This will help your doctor offer the safest and most effective treatment, which may involve referral to another health care provider.

The chiropractic profession takes the public health impact of vertebral artery dissection very seriously and engages in training and postgraduate education courses to recognize the risk factors of stroke in patients as a critical component of rendering treatment in the most effective and responsible manner possible. 

The American Chiropractic Association