By Angela

The Chiropractormassage1

It had been almost 3 weeks since the car accident and Angela was still waiting to feel better. Sometimes massage helped her relax a bit, though a lot of it seemed to depend on who was doing it. And even then, she constantly had to adjust her head and neck to try to find to relieve the pain and at times she could barely stand to be touched without crying. One massage therapist told her the massage was helping to release negative emotional energy. She commented to the massage therapist and to Dr. Slaughter, the chiropractor, how she usually felt confused and light-headed, sick to her stomach, felt sharp pains and often lost her hearing temporarily in her right ear after most massages and adjustments.

Today had been considerably bad. Dr. Slaughter told her she had been particularly guarded. She felt very shaky, confused and emotional, as well. He thought that an MRI of her neck and shoulders was in order and told her to check with the receptionist about making an appointment to get one done that day.

When Angela stopped by the desk, the receptionist told her she had an appointment for an MRI later that day at 1:00 and wrote the address on a piece of paper. “Can you tell me how to get there?” asked Angela asked. The receptionist started giving her directions.

question-mark1Angela listened intently and watched as her mouth moved. But her words made no sense. Feeling panicky, Angela asked, “Could you say that again?” Once again the receptionist’s mouth moved, but the words sounded foreign. Angela couldn’t comprehend anything she was saying. She was really scared now, started crying hysterically, saying over and over, “I don’t understand what you’re saying. I don’t understand the words.” What was happening? She felt like she was going insane!

“Can you write out the directions?” she asked, while still crying. People were staring at her. She knew she must be acting strange, but she couldn’t understand what people were saying and she was scared. She sat in a chair in the waiting room and tried resting her head on the arm of the chair, but sitting was too painful; she needed to lie down flat. Maybe a short nap would help, she reasoned to herself, as she left the office for the privacy of her car. Positioning the driver’s seat so she could lie down, she took a short nap.

The shakiness had subsided, though she still felt confused and light-headed. Somehow, Angela made it to the Imaging Center, where MRIs of her neck and shoulders were done. Maybe she was feeling light-headed because it had been a while since she had eaten.

After finishing with the MRIs, she went to Arby’s drive-through to order a sandwich. Pulling up to the window, she gave the woman her order. The woman looked at her quizzically and said, “This is the window where you pay after placing your order.”

“I’m sorry. I guess I forgot. Could you take my order anyway?” asked Angela. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten how to order food from a drive-through! How embarrassing!

Four days later, Angela had an appointment for a massage and chiropractic adjustment. Hopefully, Dr. Slaughter would have the MRI results. She wondered what the findings showed. Angela’s neck was really bothering her.

While cutting the grass a few days earlier, she had to take a break every 10 minutes to go inside, ice down her neck and back and lie down. Today during her massage, she had a new cluster of strange symptoms. While the massage therapist focused primarily on her neck, shoulder and back muscles, Angela felt the familiar waves of nausea but was now finding it difficult to swallow; the muscles in her neck felt like someone’s hands tightening their grip around her neck, strangling her, making it difficult to swallow.


The MRI had shown that Angela had a small rotator cuff tear on her left shoulder. Dr. Gosh, the shoulder specialist, had written an order for physical therapy, so in addition to seeing her primary care doctor twice a week for acupuncture and the chiropractor twice a week for massage and adjustments, she had physical therapy once a week. She tried to convince herself that all of this was helping.

She had been told that she would continue to feel worse while the “energetic” and “spinal” blockages cleared. All that mattered to Angela was that all of this would help her heal soon, so she could focus her energies on landing her next job.

One evening about 6 weeks after the car accident, Angela was feeling particularly bad. She was having intense headaches frequently, her right temple was extremely sensitive to touch, she was having vision problems including pressure in her right eye and something that felt close to double vision, and she almost felt like a toddler who was not in control of her legs when trying to walk. In addition to that, her memory difficulties during conversations had increased in frequency and severity and she was having severe problems with finding words to express herself and halting speech. She called her family doctor’s answering service and waited for Dr. Martin to call back. After about 45 minutes, she decided to call Dr. Slaughter to see what he might recommend since she had seen him the day before.

“Should I go to the hospital?” Angela asked Dr. Slaughter, concerned about the new and worsening symptoms. Dr. Slaughter did not sound very concerned. He said there probably wasn’t much they would do and recommended that she call a friend to come over for a while and to have the friend call him once she arrived.

Soon after Mary Jane arrived and spoke with Dr. Slaughter, Dr. Martin returned Angela’s phone call. In contrast to Dr. Slaughter’s opinion, she recommended that Angela go to the emergency room as soon as possible. Of course, Angela followed Dr. Martin’s advice since she was a medical doctor.

A CT scan of her brain, an MRI and MRA were done. Apparently the doctor was worried about the possibility of a vertebral artery dissection. But the tests came back normal and Angela was sent home.


It wasn’t until about 3 years after the car accident, that a doctor finally started putting the pieces of the puzzle together in terms of what happened to me. There are many complexities in understanding what happened and why, so I will attempt to simplify as best I can.

The car accident may have caused some damage or, at bare minimum, caused my neck and the blood vessels associated with it to be in a vulnerable state. The chiropractic adjustments of “cracking my neck” caused permanent damage to my right vertebrobasilar artery which supplies blood to the base of the brain on the right side. I have decreased blood flow to a certain area of my brain (the basilar system which is located at the base of the brain in the lower brain stem), some which is permanent, and some which is intermittent.

During these “intermittent” times when I experience decreased blood flow, I exhibit the following symptoms:

· Nausea & confusion

· Increased tremors

· Weakness on the left side of my body

· Difficulty speaking (I stutter and can only say a couple of words at a time)

· Trouble seeing (blurry vision and a kind of tunnel vision in which I can only see what is directly in front of me)

· Trouble walking and moving my legs and difficulty with motor planning causing me to collapse

· Headache and severe pain that radiates up the left side of my neck to the base of my head

I hope that I can help others learn from my mistakes and, thus, spare them the devastating challenges I have suffered as a result. Here are the important lessons I have learned and would like to pass along to others:

1. If you have experienced some kind of trauma to your neck, such as whiplash, realize that your neck is vulnerable. Do not let a chiropractor do any kind of “neck cracking!” This could put you at increased risk to experiencing a stroke.chiropractor-neck-adjust

2. Understand that even if you are young and healthy, you increase your odds of experiencing a stroke by receiving chiropractic neck manipulation.

According to chiropractors, the incidence of stroke from neck manipulation is very small. Are they really the best source to obtain this kind of information? After all, they have the most to lose and, therefore, have a conflict of interest in providing true and accurate information. Canadian neurologists have expressed significant concerns with regards to neck manipulation. (See article Canadian Neurologists Warn Against Neck Manipulation) Also take into consideration that: 1) malpractice insurers do not have to disclose how many cases they are aware of, and 2) most cases that doctors see are not reported. You may want to watch the following CNN segment done by Dr. Gupta in 2008. (See Stroke after Chiropractic Care)

3. Observe for some of these RED FLAGS with regards to your chiropractor’s practices that indicate he is more concerned about how much money he can get, rather than what is in your best interest.

Such as: (1) refusal of the chiropractor to speak with your primary care physician and instead, only work with “his professionals;” (2) does not submit claims to your medical insurance which covers chiropractic visits, but instead holds out to get his higher fees paid for through the personal injury law suit; and (3) refers you to a lawyer who informs your car insurance company to send the Med Pay check directly to the chiropractor rather than their client. The chiropractor who treated me, hired a lawyer to get the bank to foreclose on my home in order to pay him. He backed down when my lawyer informed him that he would be reported for his illegal practice of not submitting his charges to my health insurance company when I had clearly provided him with this information.

4. Observe RED FLAGS with regards to your health related to receiving a neck manipulation from a chiropractor. The following symptoms ARE NOT NORMAL and SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED: sharp pain in the neck, visual disturbances, nausea, dizziness, poor co-ordination, weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or difficulty swallowing, speaking or walking. DO NOT allow your neck to be manipulated if you are experiencing any of these symptoms! AND seek a prompt and immediate medical assessment.

In my case, I thought it was strange that I experienced confusion, light-headedness, nausea, sharp pains and temporary hearing loss whenever anyone did anything to my neck, whether it was massage or chiropractic adjustments. I communicated these symptoms to all of my medical care providers at the time these symptoms occurred and afterwards; I looked to them to let me know if these things were something to be concerned about. I also mentioned this to one doctor after another as I searched for answers to what was wrong with me, what had happened. NO ONE EXPRESSED ANY KIND OF CONCERN, until 2 years later when I saw an oto-neurologist.

As he thumbed through a huge notebook of medical records, he turned to me and said, “What stands out to me is that you reported to many doctors that you temporarily lost your hearing in your right ear during massage and neck manipulation. Didn’t anyone ever comment on that or do any kind of testing to find out what was going on?”

I said, “No. Is this significant? I thought it was strange when it happened, but my hearing would eventually return. Since that happened and none of the doctors said anything about it, I figured it wasn’t anything to worry about. Most of the doctors told me it was all psychological, even though I didn’t believe it.”

He told me this was VERY SIGNIFICANT. He conducted many different tests and found the following: video-taped nystagmus on the ENG test (a test which identifies problems with the vestibular/balance system), some abnormalities on the ABR test (a test of the brain stem), and an angiogram test which established problems with circulation to my brain stem. All of these tests are peripherally related or connected.

Sadly, many doctors prefer to make a quick diagnosis of “psychological problems” for things they cannot quickly explain, rather than look beyond their own egos to admit a lack of knowledge or understanding on their part or an unwillingness to admit that they simply will not expend much time on complex cases due to inadequate monetary compensation.

The thing I find most appalling with regards to the chiropractor’s behavior was the way he was so unconcerned about symptoms which were very much stroke-like, when I asked him if I should go to the ER. Was he merely ignorant of the risks for chiropractic strokes caused by neck manipulation? Or was he actually aware of the possibility that he was responsible for a serious problem and was trying to do damage control?

In closing, do your homework and make a well-educated decision about whether to receive chiropractic treatment, by carefully weighing the benefits vs. the risks. Had I been properly informed about the risks and educated with regards to the symptoms I experienced after the neck manipulations I received, I would have a much different life at this point in time. I would not be dealing with issues which typically concern a 70 or 80-year-old at the age of 50.

Click here to go to section on Resources regarding Chiropractic Stroke.

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**Note: While the events are real, names have been changed.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009

Tags: chiropractor, chiropractic stroke


2 Responses to “The Chiropractor”

  1. 1 John Ritter MD
    April 7, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Although, I am incredibly sorry for your situation. I am compelled to inform you that not all chiropractors are alike. I have seen them do amazing things to not only myself, but friends and family as well. I too was a skeptic of their methods, especially coming from the allopathic side of medicine. The red flags should have been addressed, and your chiropractor was negligent, but you cannot put them all in the same boat. Yet there are not Medical Doctors, they still go through the same exact course work as MD’s asside from the pharmaceutical education. So be careful when you undermine their education. They do focus primarily on nuero-muscular-skeletal disorders primarily during their last couple years of education, but it is not lacking any of the clinical know how expected of a general medical physician. I am only commented to open the minds of the readers to the fact that not all professionals are created equally. Don’t right Chiropractic off because of one incident. More people die of strokes taking medications at their recommended doses each year than will ever die from an adjustment. You were one of very few documented cases. And although the malpractice insurers don’t report all the incidents, the Medical Doctor that treats the stroke patient last will report the connection to the adjustmennt. On the topic of facts, over the counter NSAIDS kill more healthy people per year then AIDS. So don’t put all the stigma on one profession. We all make mistakes and I am sorry it happened to you, but my grandfather died because his MD gave him the wrong medication. So bad things happen in all professions. I still think that MD’s should act as the primary physicians, but not in a fashion that governs a chiropractors treatments. Some of the smartest medical minds I have met were chiropractors, they just didn’t like the idea of prescribing drugs.

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