Patients that have their neck ‘cracked’ or undergo spinal manipulations to relieve neck pain, could be at risk of strokes.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), health experts have called for the practice to be stamped out, saying it can also cause permanent neck damage.
Neck cracking –otherwise known as cervical spine manipulation – is a method commonly used by chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths as a treatment for neck discomfort, which involves applying ‘thrusts’ to the back and neck.
However, while some experts in the field have said the practice is potentially unsafe, others have disagreed, saying it is a “valuable addition to patient care”.
To read the latest edition of Healthcare Global, click here
- UNICEF tackles pneumonia and diarrhea to save 2m lives
- GP surgeries to be scored out of 10 by patients
- New hope for a universal pneumococcal meningitis vaccine
But Neil O'Connell and colleagues, from the Centre for Research and Rehabilitation at Brunel University, England, say neck cracking “may carry the potential for serious neurovascular complications”.
They say there is a low stroke risk associated with cervical spine manipulation, as the lining of the vertebral artery, which supplies blood to the brain, can tear.
According to the team, previous research has also revealed that “consistent evidence of an association between neurovascular injury and recent exposure to cervical manipulation.”
They added: “The potential for catastrophic events and the clear absence of unique benefit lead to the inevitable conclusion that manipulation of the cervical spine should be abandoned as part of conservative care for neck pain.”
But there are people that disagree with O’Connell’s views, and a professor from the University of Toronto, David Cassidy, said there is evidence that proves neck cracking is a safe and effective treatment for neck pain.
Meanwhile, the British Chiropractic Association dismissed the concerns, saying: “The cherry-picking of poor quality research needlessly raises alarm in patients and does little to help the people suffering from neck pain and headaches to choose the most appropriate treatment.”
The Healthcare Global magazine is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.