Chiropractic Treatment – Risks of Neck Adjustment

Tragic death from an ill-fated chiropractic treatment involving a neck adjustment

In February 2016, Katie May, a 34 year old Playboy model fell during a photo shoot, hurting her neck. Trusting her chiropractor to fix the problem, she allowed him to do a neck adjustment, which involved rapidly twisting her neck. A few hours later, she posted on Twitter that her neck still felt very painful and asked her followers to recommend some home remedies. Her friends reported that she felt more sick as the day progressed, and was taken to the emergency room. Tragically, Ms. May was pronounced brain dead the next day, and her family took her off life support.

Model Katie May tragically died after a stroke that was caused by a ruptured vertebral artery from a chiropractic neck adjustment

What happened? The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office reported that May’s death was due to a stroke caused by an injury that tore her left vertebral artery, due to the chiropractic treatment. Torn vertebral arteries are a common cause of stroke in young people. These arteries supply blood and oxygen to the head and neck. The family of Katie May have sued her chiropractor for wrongful death. The American Chiropractic Association said that ‘it takes extreme force in order to tear a retrieval artery’.

Katie May’s twitter post hours after her neck adjustment

Katie May’s death raises our awareness about the risks of chiropractic treatment. The most immediate lesson to take away from her tragedy is to not allow anyone, whether chiropractor or massage therapist to adjust your neck. The risks outweigh the benefits by a large margin. Why take the risk of a life-threatening stroke just to feel a mostly temporary relief in your neck? Many people have also been made to expect that ‘crack’ sound when the chiropractor adjusts their spine. While this may be psychologically satisfying, it is better to limit the adjustments that produce this sound to your back, not your neck since the neck is more vulnerable than the back to mistakes by the chiropractor.

Left vertebral artery

Photo credits: The Daily Mail, UK