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Research Critique: Stroke Risk with Chiropractic Neck Manipulations


The article I read was “Chiropractic’s Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulations and Strokes” by Stephen Barrett, MD. This article is published as part of a secrets on a website called the Quackwatch. Stephen Barrett definitely seems to have a strong hatred for the field of chiropractics with his scathing article about idiotic and dangerous chiropractors giving thousands of risky neck manipulations to unknowing patients. He cites many chiropractors and chiropractic studies that claim these spinal manipulations are extremely safe but then finds flaws and incomplete truths in many of these defenses. He then lists his own set of data that displays a more alarming indication of the danger of such manipulations for causing serious strokes, especially when unnecessarily done or accomplished by an ignorant chiropractor. He even goes on to give a former chiropracter’s testimonial at the end of the article confirming his arguments about the dangers of spinal adjustments that he has witnessed in his experiences. While Barrett does make several good points and backs up his argument with credentials and data, I also do believe that his views should be taken somewhat with a grain of salt because they may be slightly biased.

            The second article I read about the dangers of strokes caused by chiropractic adjustment of the spine was called “Neck Cracking Raises Stroke Risks” on WebMD. In it they state that while some neurologists are saying that spinal manipulations done by chiropractors may cause a relatively high risk of stroke, the actual risks are very small. These risks are not small enough however that the chiropractors shouldn’t be warning and informing their patients prior to going through with these manipulations. A neurologist and chiropractor Haldeman attests to the very low risk of such a medical action and that it should not be a major concern for a patient. He claims that the risk is no higher than the most rare side effects of any type of medical treatment. Spinal manipulation may be the only effective method of treating a condition and if it is not done then there is no other risk free method that could possibly solve it either. Overall, this article is much more neutral on the subject at hand and gives both perspectives. This WebMD article is mostly informational for the general public and it is not trying to sway readers to one side or the other like the Barrett article.

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