Written by Daniel P. Dock, D.C.   
Saturday, 03 April 2004 17:24

A Doctor of Chiropractic is told by a medical neurologist that "they see vertebral artery dissections secondary to chiropractic adjustments often, even cases of bilateral vertebral dissection".

A medical neurological clinic, which works with Doctors of Chiropractic often, states they have "five or six stroke patients caused by chiropractic adjustments."  The medical doctor felt that the patient must have had hard rotational adjustments.  One case had multiple neck artery dissections (tear) so that must have had "real hard" rotational chiropractic adjustments. 

At first glance, this looks like Doctors of Chiropractic are dangerous.

Yet, what is missing here?  Medical research and every day life experience are overlooked.

Differential assessment is needed to try to correctly identify the accurate cause of the patient's condition.  But, this seems to be forgotten when it comes to vertebral artery dissection (tear) and possible resulting stroke when the patient saw a chiropractor.

Medical research documents that in an unidentifiable person the vertebral artery can dissect (tear) spontaneously or with simple neck motion.  See Dr. Dock's past articles in American Chiropractor.  When a patient presents to a medical neurological clinic, with a vertebral artery dissection, the medical doctor considers in the work-up that when the artery dissects (tears) the patient gets neck pain on the same side.  So, a doctor knows when the vertebral artery tore. 

The artery dissects (tears), the patient has neck pain and presents to the Doctor of Chiropractic's office.  The patient is assessed, and a cervical subluxation is found that is thought to be the cause of the neck pain.  Nothing adverse happens due to the adjustment.  The patient goes on to have a stroke then or later.  The patient is treated by the medical doctor who forgets to take a history of "when did the neck pain start" (which would tell them when the vertebral artery dissected).  Instead, the medical doctor finds out the patient went to a chiropractor and jumps to the conclusion that the dissection was due to the chiropractic adjustment.  This indicates to me that when a patient has seen a chiropractor the medical doctor seems to think they are relieved of their duty to ask a history of, "When was the onset of symptoms (neck pain)," and doing a differential assessment of causation.  If the patient had not been seen by a chiropractor, would the medical doctor have asked, "When did the neck pain start?"  And, would a correct causation have been concluded?

So, when the medical doctor states that "we see chiropractic caused strokes often," one wonders if the medical doctor considers the medical research (probably in their own hospital library) that reflects that in an unidentifiable population the vertebral artery can dissect spontaneously or with simple neck motion.  And, one wonders if the medical doctor recalls that when the vertebral artery dissects the patient can get neck pain on the same side of the dissection, which tells them when the artery dissected.  Further, one wonders if the chiropractor really did dissect the vertebral artery the medical doctor says the chiropractor dissected.  Or, was the dissection actually prior to the chiropractic treatment.  Is the medical doctor ignoring the available facts, and just stating, "The patient saw a chiropractor so it must be due to the chiropractor."

Watch for Dr. Dock's American Chiropractor articles.


Dr. Daniel P. Dock is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and a Board Certified Chiropractic Orthopedist.  He has written four books:  A False Claim:  Stroke From Manipulation; Whiplash Trauma; Records Documentation; and The Orthopedic Spinal Examination.  The recipient of the Minnesota Chiropractic Association-President’s Award, Washington State Chiropractic Association’s Volunteer of  the Year Award, Georgia Chiropractic Association’s Honorary Life Time Membership, Dr Dock lectures at over sixty continuing education seminars per year.  He also maintains an active practice in Minnesota.


For more about Dr. Dock call 218-525-2033 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Dr. Daniel P. Dock -
4529 E. Superior Street
Duluth, MN 55804
218 525-2033


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