No significant link proven between strokes and chiropractic

August 16, 2000

CHANDLER, Ariz. (August 17, 2000) -- Almost since it was founded as a separate profession in 1895, chiropractic has been under attack by many in the medical profession. As was proven in federal court, most of the criticism has been totally unfounded, an attempt to destroy a competing health care field which threatens the medical monopoly in this country.

In their latest attempt to discredit chiropractic and discourage people from seeking care from chiropractors, some proponents of allopathic medicine continue to disseminate misleading information about a possible link between cervical adjustments and strokes.

According to the World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA), an international advocacy organization representing chiropractors worldwide, such misinformation is a deliberate and unethical scare tactic which does not stand up to critical analysis.

"Even if we restrict our investigation to cervical adjustments -- which have been the focus of many of the media and medical attacks -- the only reasonable conclusion which can be drawn is that chiropractic adjustments do not pose any significant risk of stroke and are remarkably safe," stated Terry A. Rondberg, D.C., president of the WCA and author of "Chiropractic First," a consumer guide to chiropractic.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. The lack of blood causes brain cells to die. There are nearly 750,000 first ever or recurrent strokes each year in the U.S. and more than 150,000 deaths are directly stroke-related.

Numerous published scientific and medical studies indicate that the incidence of a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke is estimated at between one and three per million adjustments.

One study covered a period of 28 years, while another involved reviewing about 110 million chiropractic visits. The results of these studies show conclusively that the risk of stroke from a chiropractic adjustment is so small as to be statistically insignificant.

It has been estimated to be even less than that of "beauty parlor stroke syndrome" -- a rare occurrence triggered when a customer leans her head back on a sink to get her hair washed.

In reality, even the one to three incidents per million adjustments figure may be overestimated. In some cases, spinal manipulation was blamed even if the stroke occurred days or weeks afterwards. According to researcher Christopher Kent, D.C., "The fact that a temporal relationship exists between two events does not mean that one caused the other."

Additionally, medical researchers frequently misunderstand the critical differences between specific chiropractic adjustments and cervical manipulation. Doctors of chiropractic are highly trained in the use of the adjustment, which is the specific application of force to help correct nerve interference. Manipulation is the forceful passive movement of a joint beyond its active limit of motion. Since it doesn't imply the use of precision, specificity or the correction of nerve interference, it is not synonymous with chiropractic adjustment.

Finally, many of the cases cited by medical researchers as being "chiropractic treatments" were actually spinal manipulations rendered by non-chiropractic practitioners.

According to a 1995 research report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, "Misuse of the literature by medical authors in discussing spinal manipulative therapy injury," manipulations administered by a Kung Fu practitioner, GPs, osteopaths, physiotherapists, a wife, a blind masseur, and an Indian barber had been incorrectly attributed to chiropractors.

The report explained that, "The words chiropractic and chiropractor have been incorrectly used in numerous publications dealing with SMT injury by medical authors, respected medical journals and medical organizations. In many cases, this is not accidental; the authors had access to original reports that identified the practitioner involved as a non-chiropractor. The true incidence of such reporting cannot be determined. Such reporting adversely affects the reader's opinion of chiropractic and chiropractors."

Even medical researchers have had to admit that chiropractic care carries far less of a stroke risk than medical treatment. "Indeed, most interventions by allopathic physicians have a higher complication rate than chiropractic interventions," said Philip Lee, M.D., a co-investigator of a research survey presented at the American Heart Association's 19th International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.

Because of this inaccurate reporting to the media, the World Chiropractic Alliance is calling upon the medical establishment to provide factual data to the public and restrain from using scare tactics in a blatant attempt to continue its long-standing history of opposition to chiropractic and other disciplines which threaten its monopoly on the health care system.
The WCA posted its complete position paper on strokes, including abstracts of numerous scientific studies, on its website,

The World Chiropractic Alliance is an international organization representing doctors of chiropractic and promoting the traditional, drug-free and non-invasive form of chiropractic as a means to correct vertebral subluxations which cause nerve interference. The WCA is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information and publisher of the peer-reviewed chiropractic research journal, "Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research." For more information, contact the WCA at 800-347-1011 or

World Chiropractic Alliance

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