Death of model Katie May
The very sad announcement of the death of Playboy model Katie May has prompted several questions about the safety of neck adjustments from chiropractors. I have had a couple patients ask about the event. I was not present for the examination and treatment rendered to Katie May, so I cannot comment on the specifics of the case.
I can say that these types of injuries are incredibly rare. When I was in chiropractic school in 1995, the rate of this type of injury was 1 in 2 million adjustments. The rate has dropped to about 1 in 5 million adjustments. It still happens but chiropractors are careful to identify at-risk individuals and screen for risk factors. The most at-risk category is a 37 year old female with an athletic build. They are the most likely person to suffer the injury.
One might ask what can be done to reduce the risk of this type of injury. The answer is simple, do not perform that type of neck adjustment. The neck adjustment which causes the tear in the vertebral artery’s tunica intima is called a rotary cervical break. It involves rotation and extension of the neck. Not all chiropractors use this maneuver. In fact, the maneuver has fallen out of favor because it is associate with this type of stroke injury- albeit very, very rarely. But the risk is greater than zero and if your chiropractic physician can get the same or similar results using a safer technique, then that technique should be utilized.
In our St George Utah office, we utilize safer alternatives including Activator technique and non rotary cervical break maneuvers. We get positive results in a safer environment. I have been a chiropractor for 21 years and I have never caused the type of injury that lead to the death of Katie May. I have personally known 5 patients who suffered the injury and survived. So, the event does occur on very rare occasions. Hopefully, with better screening and technique selection we can lower the risk even more.
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