When Kristi Bedenbaugh wanted relief from a bad sinus headache, the 24 year-old former beauty queen and medical office administrator made the mistake of consulting a chiropractor. An autopsy performed on Kristi revealed that the manipulation of her neck had split the inner walls of both vertebral arteries, resulting in a fatal stroke.
The chiropractor’s violent twisting of her neck caused the torn arterial walls to balloon and block the blood supply to the posterior portion of her brain. Studies confirmed that the blood clots formed on the two days she received her neck adjustments.
Kristi died in1993. Four years later, South Carolina’s State Board of Chiropractic Examiners fined the chiropractor $1000 and sentenced him to 12 hours of continuing medical education in the area of neurological disorders and emergency response.
Supporters of chiropractic are quick to claim that cases like this are rare. Try telling that to Kristi’s family — no matter how great the odds, the outcome was 100% fatal for her. The real problem is that there are no valid statistics concerning the risk of stroke after neck manipulation. Aside from anecdotal reports like Kristi’s and a few surveys, little clinical research has addressed this problem.
Two recent studies reveal the tip of the iceberg. In 1992, researchers at the Stanford Stroke Center surveyed 486 California neurologists regarding how many patients they had seen within the previous two years who had suffered a stroke within 24 hours of neck manipulation. One hundred seventy-seven neurologists responded, reporting 55 patients between the ages of 21 and 60. One patient died and 48 were left with permanent neurological impairment.
Even H.L. Mencken was unimpressed:
As far back as 1924 essayist H. L. Mencken recognized chiropractors as quacks:
Today the backwoods swarm with chiropractors, and in most States they have been able to exert enough pressure on the rural politicians to get themselves licensed. Any lout with strong hands and arms is perfectly equipped to become a chiropractor. No education beyond the elements is necessary. The takings are often high, and so the profession has attracted thousands of recruits — retired baseball players, work-weary plumbers, truck-drivers, longshoremen, bogus dentists, dubious preachers, cashiered school superintendents. Now and then a quack of some other school — say homeopathy — plunges into it. Hundreds of promising students come from the intellectual ranks of hospital orderlies.