Stroke sufferers can have a wide range of effects from the temporary to the permanent. Various levels of paralysis and mental incapacitation may, unfortunately, also occur. Traditional medical therapies usually manage recovery after a stroke. There is a persistent myth, however, that chiropractic care is linked to stroke. This has recently been thoroughly and completely debunked.
Causes, Warning Signs, and Effects of Strokes
When blood flow to the brain is halted, the brain cells lose blood and oxygen and can die. Clots and clogged arteries can cause strokes. The risk factors, both involuntary and voluntary, include diabetes, high cholesterol, age and race, leading an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, drinking, poor diet, and even some birth control pills. Symptoms of a stroke can include a severe headache, changes in sensory perception, confusion, dizziness, numbness and muscle weakness (especially on one side of the body), and trouble speaking.1 Recovery might take a lifetime. Depending on where the damage in the brain occurred, the effects can be mild to severe, temporary, or even permanent. There are physical, cognitive, emotional, and lifestyle effects.2
Treatments and Prevention of Strokes
Some risk factors are preventable, such as managing blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing or managing diabetes, avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol, and exercising to reduce obesity.3 There are foods that can be eaten to prevent stroke, such as fruits, vegetables, dark, leafy greens, foods that are high in fiber, foods that are low in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Food that contains omega-3 fatty acids should be eaten at least two times each week. Again, moderating alcohol intake and managing weight also help prevention.4 Competitive physical training is not the level of exercise patients have to engage in to prevent stroke. Moderate exercise for at least a total of two and a half hours per week, when combined with other lifestyle changes, can be performed more easily by the average, working person. Exercise can be fun, such as swimming, biking, or walking with friends. While the weekends are the only free time for most patients, those who work might still be able to make a difference during their busy week. Even just substituting taking a lunch break while sitting at a desk with a walk is a small but useful change. Eating a healthy lunch and snacks and taking regular breaks to stretch and walk around over the course of the work day may also help.5 Other risk factors cannot be controlled, including age, race, gender, genetics, having had previous strokes or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). Involuntary risk factors are the reason why learning to recognize the causes and early recognition is important for patients with history or known risk factors.6 Early recognition of the stroke is critical for providing fast treatment. Signs can include “sudden-onset face weakness, arm drift… and abnormal speech”. Doctors diagnose stroke through neurological exams, CT, MRI, and ultrasound tests. Mainly, doctors will help patients prevent stroke with medications to treat blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, cholesterol and diabetes, and even surgeries. After stroke, rehabilitation can include “physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy”. These may take months to years, and some patients will never be able to fully recover certain faculties.7
Chiropractic Care Does Not Increase Stroke Risk
There has been a persistent rumor that chiropractic care, which is aimed at a wellness lifestyle and prevention of disease, can contribute to stroke risk. CNN recently addressed this with host Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s discussion with Bill Lauretti (NY Chiropractic College). As Lauretti noted, Doctors of Chiropractic are qualified because of the regulations. “They’re actually quite strict. Our educational requirements are quite vigorous.” There are 3 years of undergraduate work, followed by 5 more years of full time academics in the sciences. The risk of stroke being increased by a patient receiving chiropractic care is actually rare: “Somewhere in the range of between one and one million to one in five million chiropractic neck treatments.” The reason why some patients have suffered stroke is really more about the underlying problem a patient may have that they did not share with their practitioner. “These patients are going to the chiropractor with neck pain and headache…And the chiropractor gets blamed for causing the stroke, whereas the patient may have gone to their medical doctor as well…” Therefore, chiropractors should make sure to look for “red flags”, such as unusual neck pain or headache in the patient.8 Chiropractors advocate an overall healthy lifestyle, including preventing health conditions that could cause stroke in the first place by changing dietary and exercise habits. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) states, “Neck manipulation is a remarkably safe procedure…If you are visiting your doctor of chiropractic with upper-neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms, so that he or she can provide the safest and most effective treatment, even if it involves referral to another health care provider.”9