Chiropractor works on patient.

Chiropractors have a reputation for being “holistic” healthcare providers. A lot of people visit a chiropractor because they want less invasive options for treatment. And that makes sense. So much sense that these days you wouldn’t think twice about a loved one receiving chiropractic care. Why? 

Because it feels risk-free! This is the option you take when you don’t want to deal with all the side effects, right? 

This is the problem. A lot of people don’t know about the risks. They aren’t talked about and people aren’t informed. 

Chiropractic procedures aren’t necessarily risk-free. Manipulating the neck and spine can result in serious injury and even death. Keep reading to learn more. 

Injuries That Can Lead to Chiropractic Lawsuits

The American Heart Association has warned about the risks of neck manipulation. Pointing out the thrusts and rotations can result in a small tear in the artery wall. This can lead to a blood clot and a stroke. 

Other injuries that have resulted from neck adjustments are: 

  • Pinched arteries
  • Recurring headaches
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Vertigo
  • Facial paralysis

Spinal manipulation (mid and lower) can cause a number of problems:

  • Bone weakness
  • Disc herniation
  • Bladder paralysis
  • Muscle weakness 

A 30-year old healthy man received a neck manipulation that caused a tear in the artery wall. The man suffered a stroke while at his chiropractor’s office. He later died at the hospital. The risk of stroke is the number one concern with chiropractic care.

Chiropractors use different techniques to manipulate and adjust the spine. The goal is to release pressure on nerves caused by displacement or dislocation. Many chiropractors believe misalignment of the spine is the cause of many diseases, but the jury’s still out on that one. 

The spine is what holds you up. It runs through the body connecting your brain to each part of your body. So it’s an incredibly important part of the body to keep healthy and functional. When you go to a chiropractor, you’re probably hoping to get rid of one ailment. But here’s a question worth asking. Is it worth risk of trading in one ailment for something worse?  

Take into account your history or any current medical conditions that may put you at risk. This may help you decide whether or not you should visit your chiropractor’s office. 

Woman receives neck adjustment from Chiropractor.

What Is Chiropractic Malpractice & a Chiropractic Lawsuit?

There are many forms of chiropractic malpractice. Most fit into two categories. 

1. Failure to diagnose and treat a condition that needs immediate attention:

When a chiropractor receives information on a patient they need to make the best decision to act on it. If you delay the decision, the condition may get worse. 

For example, a chiropractor receives a patient’s X-rays and they don’t immediately act. Something shows up abnormal but they don’t notify the patient. Now there’s a risk that it can get worse. In this case, the malpractice isn’t necessarily something the chiropractor did, but something they didn’t do. A chiropractor, like any other healthcare professional, has a responsibility to the patient to give them a high standard of care. In the absence of that care, you may have a chiropractic lawsuit.  

2. Giving care that leads to injury:

When chiropractors manipulate and rotate their patient’s spine, sometimes they’re too abrupt or too forceful. This could result in the injuries we talked about earlier. Cervical Manipulative Therapy (CMT) is a very common treatment for head and neck pain. This uses quick thrusts that can lead to stroke. 

In Oklahoma City, a woman named Lynne Beliveau suffered a stroke during her chiropractic visit. Almost ten years after the incident she still has paralysis in one side of her throat. She has a hard time swallowing without choking and has lost vision in her left eye. The effects of a chiropractic injury can be long-term and even permanently alter a person’s life.  

Other forms of chiropractic malpractice are:

  • A pre-chiropractic exam isn’t given. 
  • Details from the patient’s history aren’t taken.
  • Diagnosis imaging isn’t performed prior to treatment.
  • There’s not a thorough physical exam.
  • The chiropractor doesn’t inform the patient of other treatment options. 

When a patient is in pain they may be willing to try anything. This is why the chiropractor needs to make sure they are explaining all the options and risks. They also need to know the patient’s history well enough to recommend treatment. A patient should be able to trust that their chiropractor spent the time learning and discussing what’s best for them. 

Why Does Chiropractic Malpractice Happen? 

Serious injury from chiropractic care is rare. Still, it happens and there are ways to prevent it. 

If a chiropractor understands the risk they can make sure their patient understands the risk as well. That way they’re making informed decisions and aren’t on a path towards chiropractic lawsuits.

Chiropractors can help prevent injuries when they have full knowledge of a patient’s health history. For example, if a patient has been in a serious car accident, the chiropractor should know. If the patient has a connective tissue disorder, it affects their blood vessels. They would be at higher risk for injury. If the chiropractor doesn’t take the time to know the patient’s history they’re making uninformed decisions. The patient then may not be receiving the standard of care.   

People usually come to a chiropractic office with pain. A tear in the artery lining caused by the neck manipulation also causes pain. It can be hard to identify what exactly happened with the patient when there is an initial injury and then a resulting injury. A patient could even have a tear before starting treatment at the office. 

Of course, sometimes a patient is rushed to the hospital from a chiropractic appointment. That is much harder to explain away.

Either way, it is important to know the signs of a stroke:

  • Slurred speech
  • Sensory loss
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty walking
  • Problems swallowing
  • Neck pain   

When a patient is experiencing stroke symptoms or a serious back injury, immediate emergency care is crucial. If an injury like this occurs in a chiropractor’s office, the chiropractor needs to treat the situation as an emergency right away. Quick medical attention can minimize the risk of death or serious injury.

Man suffering from chiropractic injury.

Final Thoughts On Chiropractic Lawsuits

Sometimes mistakes happen without rhyme or reason. But other times, they happen when negligence takes place and the standard of care isn’t given. 

Any of these situations we’ve discussed can lead to a serious injury and may warrant a chiropractic lawsuit. Chiropractors need to be held responsible for their actions and patient’s need to hold them to the standard of care. If you or a family member suffered a chiropractic injury from chiropractic malpractice, reach out to our office. We will help you gather the information you need for a chiropractic lawsuit during this difficult time.