Stroke: From Risk To Recovery

As we continue into springtime here in Colorado Springs, we want to acknowledge and discuss different aspects of stroke for National Stroke Awareness Month. According to the CDC, Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States and every year almost 800,000 people in the country have a stroke. A couple interesting statistical tidbits:

  • 1 in 4 incidences are in people who have had a previous stroke.
  • 87% of all stokes are ischemic, meaning blood flow to the brain is blocked.

As many of you know, we are very concerned with the central nervous system (CNS) here at Balance Chiropractic. Since the brain is like grand central station to the CNS, lets discuss what happens in a stroke.

A stroke happens when there is some type of interruption or abnormality to blood flow in an area of the brain. It can be categorized as ischemic: meaning a lack of enough blood and as such oxygen to the brain, or hemorrhagic: meaning too much bleeding within the brain. Since the brain controls and regulates every other part of your body, problems with circulation in certain areas can bring about certain signs, symptoms, and permanent deficits. Depending on which part of the brain is affected by the stroke, a stroke can immediately cause headache, dizziness, vision problems, neck pain, difficulty with speech, and in worst cases lead to paralysis on one half of the body. That is why it is so critical to identify a stroke as soon as possible, so that the person can seek immediate medical attention before the impact on the brain worsens. The common mnemonic used is FAST which stands for:

Face: When you ask the person to smile their face droops on one side.

Arm: Ask the person to lift both arms and see if one arm is weak or drifts down.

Speech: Is the person’s speech slurred when saying simple statements.

Time: Call 911 immediately if you observe any of these signs.

Risk Factors


There are a variety of factors that put someone at risk to have a stroke from genetic to environmental. Things like high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, and inflammation in the circulatory system are known risk factors for stroke. Genetically, someone may be born with malformations in certain arteries causing them to be narrower or kinked than the average individual, making them more predisposed to have a stroke.

When it comes to chiropractic, there is a lot of controversy in the media on whether traditional spinal manipulation of the neck will or will not cause a stroke. While that is not the approach we use at Balance Chiropractic, it is still important to understand the concept. It is thought that the twisting nature of a traditional manipulation of the neck can dissect or tear layers of arteries that travel into the brain, causing a clot, and ultimately a stroke. This is known as a vertebral artery dissection or VBA and is the least common kind of stroke.

After digging deep into the scientific literature on this matter, it has been discovered that the risk of this type of stroke following traditional manipulation is extremely low. The statistical evidence shows the likelihood of a stroke happening following a neck manipulation is anywhere from 1 in 1 million to 1 in 5 million. What likely happens in terms of stroke in a chiropractic setting, is that the patient is already in the process of having a stroke due to other risk factors previously mentioned and the tending chiropractor misses it before he or she manipulates the patient’s neck. This is why it is so vital for the chiropractor to do a thorough examination before an adjustment is ever considered. The reality is that all different types of chiropractors help tons of people with conditions like headaches, dizziness, and neck pain, which are also common symptoms involved in stroke. Every chiropractor must do their diligence using clinical skills to identify the presence or risk of stroke in every person that walks through their doors, so that they can be referred immediately for appropriate medical attention before an adjustment is ever made.



Now that we understand the various risks of stroke, let’s talk about how certain interventions can have a positive impact on recovery following a stroke. At Balance Chiropractic we exclusively practice a non-traditional approach to chiropractic called Foundational Correction using the NUCCA protocol. This approach uses objective metrics to identify exactly how the head and vertebra in the neck have shifted out of normal position, which allows the chiropractor to deliver a calculated adjustment designed to restore the alignment of the spine without ever popping, twisting, or cracking.

This misalignment occurs often due to a head injury trauma (whiplash, concussion), or from repetitive behaviors like working with your head flexed forward for long hours. This shift in the spine irritates the upper spinal cord known as the brain stem and can also decrease blood from flowing in and out of the brain properly through the top bone in the spine (atlas). Whether or not this predisposes someone to a stroke is not known yet, however correcting and maintaining the alignment of this part of the spine has been shown to reduce neurological stress, which can aid in the recovery process in someone who has suffered a great deal of neurological stress from a stroke.

Stroke is a very serious and potentially fatal condition. For National Stroke Awareness Month, we would like to stress the importance of proactively supporting brain health. Besides Foundational Correction, it is also important to maintain healthy lifestyle habits to reduce your risk of stroke. Those habits include a low inflammatory diet, routine exercise, managing body weight, and refraining from smoking.

We hope you’re having a wonderful spring and can’t wait to see you and your families in the office.

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