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Chiropractic Research Review

Blood Flow Unaffected by Spinal Manipulation Therapy

Concern over cerebrovascular complications stemming from spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) is common, although actual cases are rarely reported. While several studies have focused on the effect of cervical rotation alone upon blood flow in the vertebral arteries, there has been little research addressing the question of how SMT affects vertebral artery flow.

A study of twenty university students reporting a history of neck pain investigated whether any changes occurred in peak flow velocity in the vertebral arteries after spinal manipulation therapy.

No change in peak flow velocity was observed immediately after SMT, and no correlation was seen between peak flow velocity and systolic blood pressure. (Peak blood-flow velocity was not measured during SMT, but three minutes afterward. Changes in velocity may have existed within this time frame, but leveled off completely within three minutes.) Major changes in peak flow velocity might explain the pathophysiology of cerebrovascular accidents after spinal manipulation therapy, but in uncomplicated SMT, this potential risk factor does not seem to be prevalent.

Licht PB, Christensen HW, et al. Vertebral artery flow and spinal manipulation: a randomized, controlled and observer-blinded study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, March/April 1998;21(3), pp141-44.

Chiropractic Research Review

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