Is it dangerous to go to a chiropractor?

Every year, chiropractors adjust "German" necks millions of times. The quick grip helps against tension and back problems. Studies have now shown that younger patients in particular are at particular risk: the rear carotid arteries can be injured when they are straightened. The result: a stroke.

A quick grip, an unmistakable crack - and: a suffering person is born again. The jolt! Can relieve excruciating pain - or destroy health for a lifetime.

Adjusting the cervical spine has become a popular healing method among chiropractors. But what Ursel Sieber and Caroline Walter are showing you now hurts, really hurts.

Used a million times in chiropractic: the so-called neck straightening.

This straightening of vertebrae should help: against headache and tension.

Many trust the allegedly completely harmless treatment.

Vera Milazewski was also straightening her throat. Since then she has been paralyzed and has been in a wheelchair forever. She only went to the chiropractor because of a trifle: when driving a car with the window open, she had a stiff neck.

Vera Milaszewski:
"The doctor took my head in his hand, turned it to the left, turned it to the right, which clearly cracked. And then immediately I felt dizzy, I felt sick, I could no longer speak properly. I thought I had to break, I did couldn't breathe anymore, everything came at once. "

She came to the hospital, diagnosis: severe stroke. The doctor had torn her carotid arteries while straightening her. Vera Milaszewski almost died. From then on, the mother of two children was a need for care, and that at only 34 years of age.

Vera Milaszewski:
"That one minute, this one operation destroyed my whole life. I am not only sitting in a wheelchair and enduring hard work in the hospital. A lot has changed in my family life. My husband got divorced as a result."

Großhadern Clinic in Munich. The stroke expert Prof. Hamann observes with horror: More and more often he has to treat patients after chiropractic treatment, after so-called manipulation of the neck.

Prof. Gerhard Hamann, Großhadern Clinic, Munich:
"Every year we see around 50 to 60 patients who suffer strokes due to vascular tears. Every third of these patients, mostly young, previously completely healthy, patients suffer the stroke in connection with a chirotherapeutic manipulation of the cervical spine."

And this is how it happens: The procedure can primarily damage the rear carotid arteries. They run through bones and are therefore very sensitive. Pulling and jerking can cause the artery to tear. A blood clot forms. That wanders into the brain and clogs a vein. The result: a stroke.

Alexandra Weber also went to the chiropractor at the beginning of this year because of tension in the neck. Immediately after straightening the neck, the first symptoms appeared: speech disorders, paralysis - a stroke. Even today she is learning to write again with great difficulty. She was a teacher.

Alexandra Weber:
"The thing that bothers me the most is that I will probably never be able to work again. That burdens me a lot because I have constant dizziness in my head. And even today I still cannot write properly."

We ask Dr. Hartmann from the professional association of chirotherapists. But the association does not want to hear about the risk of a stroke.

Dr. Thomas Hartmann, German Society for Manual Medicine:
"I believe that there can be no manipulation of a previously healthy cervical spine, of healthy arteries, of the way in which we carry out our chirotherapy treatments."
Question: "Do you believe it or do you know it?"
"I believe neither side nor the other side really knows this."

But that is wrong: we know very well that strokes can be triggered by straightening the neck.

The Berlin University Hospital Charite. Here, too, there was an increase in cases of young stroke patients. You had just been to the chiropractor.

Eva Schielke, neurologist. She investigated the matter and started an examination at all German university clinics for the first time. With unsettling results.

Eva Schielke, Head Physician Neurology:
"We received a total of 36 cases in which there was a fairly clear connection between chirotherapy and a subsequent stroke. This confirmed our fears that the risk is greater than previously generally assumed."

And yet: Chirotherapists continue to make the dangerous grip on the neck. Often without informing the patient about the risk of stroke.

Alexandra Weber was also not informed by her doctor. Without warning he put on a hand, she didn't even know what he was up to.

Alexandra Weber:
"This orthopedic surgeon then suddenly came from behind, with the remark that we will have that in a moment, has put me in a headlock. I didn't know what was happening to me. And then I was quite dazed."

She had no choice. Had she known the risk, she would never have consented.

We want to know exactly how chiropractors educate people about the risk of stroke. And do a test in several practices: With this doctor, we are there to straighten the throat.

"What you have to explain to the patient in general, as with every other surgical procedure in particular, are fractures, if the impulse is too strong, it is nerve damage and that is essentially it."

"Why didn't you mention the risk of a stroke?"
"You are right about that, I forgot to tell you."

But he supposedly always informs the patient about the risk and obtains his or her consent: in writing, using this form.

"And then the patient signs and then he knows that's the risk?"

Question:"Did you sign a form?"

And he doesn't know anything about the risk of a stroke.

In another practice, we pretend to be a patient with neck pain. In the treatment room with a hidden camera: the doctor wants to straighten his neck. He does not explain risks. When we ask him about it several times, he evades. Not a word about stroke. On the contrary:

"With younger patients - nothing should really happen."

He looks irritated:

"Even if you go through the traffic lights, they can be run over."

Doctors are legally obliged to inform about the risks of such interventions. But even the professional association of chiropractors apparently does not take it too seriously. His information sheet for patients says succinctly: serious complications are extremely rare.

Dr. Thomas Hartmann, German Society for Manual Medicine:
"In your patient information there is not a word about the danger or complication of stroke. How can that be explained?"
"This should - if you tell me now ... Is it the latest version, by the way?"
"Yes, fresh off the internet."

Boh !!! We said that when we heard the reaction from the association. Of course, not every chiropractor is a charlatan and of course not every jolt leads to stroke and paralysis. But patients have the right to receive all information about a procedure. And the doctors, of course, have a duty to tell them.