Yes, this is actually possible.
“Studies have shown that high-velocity or high-force manipulation of the neck can be associated with injuries to the blood vessels in your neck, particularly in people under 45,” says Dr Darria Long Gillespie, an emergency room physician.
“Those vessels are crucial for blood flow to the brain, and damage to them leads to a stroke.”
May’s tweets from January suggest she was seeking chiropractic treatment after pinching a nerve in her neck during a photo shoot. After suffering the stroke, she was put on life support for several days until her death. Her death was ruled accidental and there’s no word yet on whether her family will pursue legal action.
But how worried should you be that something like this could happen to you?
Well, it seems pretty rare. Research published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found there have been only 26 deaths linked to chiropractic spinal manipulation reported in the history of medical literature, though the research acknowledges that “many more might have remained unpublished”.
According to the Mayo Clinic, serious complications from visiting your chiropractor are rare, but other risks besides stroke include a herniated disk and compression of the nerves in the lower spine.
You should avoid seeing a chiropractor if you know you’re at an increased risk of stroke, experience numbness in your arm or leg or have osteoperosis.
The bottom line: Gillespie says it’s important to be aware of the risks when you visit a chiropractor. “I would advise patients to be cautious before receiving manipulation of the neck, especially in any way that’s a high-force or high-speed manipulation.”