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Strokes Linked to Chiropractic Treatment

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Haldeman has analyzed the Norris team's data and says that the researchers have jumped to a conclusion.

"Where the incorrect jump is made is that if someone has a chiropractic manipulation and then has a stroke, they say that the manipulation caused stroke," Haldeman tells WebMD. "They don't ask what the patient was like before he went to the chiropractors office. A substantial number of them probably went to the chiropractor because their stroke already was evolving. This type of stroke starts off as neck pain and headaches -- a main reason people go to a chiropractor."

Haldeman says the best estimates available put the risk at a little more than 1 stroke per 100,000 chiropractic patients. Even that estimate, he says, doesn't account for people whose stroke was caused by a trauma that happened before seeing the chiropractor.

"I think putting emphasis on this problem is reasonable, but it has reached hysteria among neurologists," he says.

Larry Goldstein, MD, is director of the stroke center at Duke University. He says that it's hard to put the Norris study into perspective.

"How big a problem this is, nobody really knows," Goldstein says. "You don't know how many people are having these manipulations done who have no problem at all. And there are conditions that could predispose a person to this kind of problem. For the very few who have these conditions, neck manipulation is not a good idea. But you can't condemn an entire field based on that."

Goldstein, Haldeman, and Norris agree on one thing: no treatment is risk-free. They say that chiropractors should warn people that there is a risk of stroke from adjustments -- just as doctors should warn about the risks of common office procedures.

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