How Many People Have Died From Chiropractic Treatments?

March 15, 2024

When a high-profile death or adverse event occurs associated with medical treatments, it usually spurs more scientific studies and more careful examination of the treatment in question. This has happened with everything from NSAID-induced ulcers to pharmaceutical drugs to surgical procedures. But when it comes to chiropractic treatments, more often than not the public hears that these therapies are dangerous and should be avoided.

But that’s not necessarily true. While serious complications and deaths from chiropractic treatments are rare, they do occur. And when they do, it’s generally because of something that went wrong with a specific adjustment or an already existing condition.

For example, Playboy model Katie May died in 2016 after a chiropractor’s neck manipulation caused her vertebral artery to dissect, causing her to have a stroke. The coroner ruled that her visit to the chiropractor was a contributing factor in her death.

Regardless, experts say that while the risk of a spinal manipulation causing an arterial dissection is low, it is still very real. And that’s why if you are experiencing symptoms such as a sudden, severe headache or numbness in your arm or leg, you should stop going to your chiropractor and instead seek immediate medical attention.

While any manipulation of the neck can result in injury, it is especially important to have a skilled chiropractor doing this work because of the physical layout of the cervical spine and the sensitive nerves that run through it. It’s also important to understand that, if you have a herniated disc, a spinal cord injury or osteoperosis in your neck, you should not be treated by a chiropractor.

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