Chiropractors treat their patients by performing spinal manipulations intended to relieve pain in muscles and joints. These adjustments help relieve pain by increasing blood flow and improving the conductivity of the nerves in areas afflicted by pain. Depending on a person’s physical wellbeing and health care needs, they may see a chiropractor for years or for only a handful of sessions.
The safety of having your spine physically manipulated by chiropractors has been called into question, though. Two Kentucky cases showcasing the potential risks for stroke following chiropractic adjustments have recently been in the news, casting doubt on whether this type of treatment is safe for patients.
Two Women Point to Chiropractic Adjustments as Cause of Strokes
In 2020, 33-year-old Amber Burgess sought care with a chiropractor for the first time. According to a lawsuit she has since filed, that visit resulted in her suffering a spinal stroke. Her claim alleges that she has been left with permanent partial paralysis in both her legs and arms and now requires the use of a wheeled walker or a wheelchair to get around.
The stroke rendered her unable to walk, work, drive, and complete many other tasks on her own. Her husband is now her full-time caretaker.
In 2019, 31-year-old Becca Barlow had already seen a chiropractor more than two dozen times before she was injured. Following her Jan. 7, 2019 adjustment, she fell off of the intersegmental traction table and began vomiting. Barlow also displayed classic signs of a stroke, including nausea, numbness, vertigo, and dizziness. As a nurse, she recognized these symptoms and asked attending staff members to call 911.
Barlow was taken to a nearby hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery that doctors say saved her life. According to her lawsuit, she had suffered three dissected arteries. Experts who testified on her behalf claimed that her chiropractor had used excessive force when turning her neck, which violated the accepted standard of care for chiropractors.
On Jan. 28, a jury awarded Barlow $1.1 million. Burgess’ case is still ongoing.
The Potential Risks for Stroke Following Chiropractic Adjustments
There has yet to be a firm, established link between chiropractic adjustments and strokes. However, there is an association between the two that all patients should be aware and informed of. Current estimates of vertebrobasilar accidents (VBAs) from chiropractic care range anywhere from .5 to 16.7 instances per 100,000.
One study found that patients under the age of 45 who had suffered a stroke were five times more likely to have undergone a spinal manipulation by a chiropractor in the week prior than adults in the same age group who had not suffered a stroke.
Chiropractic care involves exerting a controlled and sudden force on spinal joints as well as the physical manipulation of the spine and neck. When a person experiences a stroke after receiving a spinal adjustment, it is often a result of a dissected artery. An arterial dissection is a tear on the inside wall of an artery, which creates a potentially life-threatening leak known to cause strokes.
The American Chiropractic Association maintains that spinal manipulation is safe and does not cause arterial dissections or strokes. However, despite claims that it supports the idea of providing patients with informed consent, there is currently no policy that requires patients to be warned of possible risks.
Symptoms of Artery Dissection
Symptoms of an artery dissection can vary depending on whether it occurs in a vertebral artery or a carotid artery. If you or a loved one seek chiropractic care, it is important you be as informed as possible about the associated risks and potential signs of a serious medical event.
A vertebral artery dissection may cause:
- Double vision
- Balance or coordination problems
- Severe headaches
- Hearing loss
- Neck pain
- Slurred speech
A carotid artery dissection may cause:
- Eye pain
- Generalized face pain
- Neck pain
- Loss of balance
- Trouble speaking
- Memory problems
- Sagging eyelids
- Anisocoria (when one pupil is smaller than the other)
Never ignore or try to explain away the above symptoms. If you believe you may be suffering from a stroke, call 911 right away.
Legal Options for Those Injured by Chiropractic Care
Although the average chiropractor does not hold an MD (medical doctor) degree, they can still be held liable for medical negligence. If a chiropractor uses excessive force, adjusts an area incorrectly, or otherwise fails to uphold the standard of care owed to their patient, a medical malpractice lawsuit can ensure that they are held accountable for the harm they’ve caused.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, a victim may be owed compensation for their related medical bills, lost wages, mental anguish (including PTSD), physical pain and suffering, and more.
Thomas Law Offices Is a Proud Legal Advocate for Victims of Malpractice
Whether you’re seen by a chiropractor or at a doctor’s office, you deserve to receive care with the confidence that you’ll be treated safely according to the accepted standard of care. When a provider fails to uphold that duty of care, you should not be the one left to deal with the aftermath on your own.
Thomas Law Offices can be your steadfast guide through the process of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
As seasoned attorneys, we are proud of the unrivaled legal representation we have provided to countless clients in Kentucky. We take many cases on a contingency fee basis, which opens up our services to injury victims regardless of their ability to pay.
Contact us today for a free consultation, and we’ll match you with a lawyer who has the experience, knowledge, and tenacity to build a strong case on your behalf.