Recent college graduate Caitlin Jensen suffered four severed arteries in her neck after visiting a chiropractor. Initially, Jensen went to the appointment to treat her back pain. However, after the neck adjustment, she fell ill. The ambulance picked her up from the chiropractor’s office and rushed her to the ER. There, doctors discovered four dissected arteries in her neck and bleeding in her brain.
“This damage led to cardiac arrest and a stroke, as well as a loss of pulse for over 10 minutes after which she was revived,” said the GoFundMe page for Jensen’s medical bills. “Once the doctors were able to stabilize Caitlin, she was rushed to surgery. Doctors were able to repair some tears and placed a stent in one artery.” 
Paralysis After a Chiropractic Neck Adjustment
One month later, Jensen remains in critical condition in the Neuro ICU in Memorial Hospital in Savannah, GA. The trauma has turned into a brain injury. According to the GoFundMe page, Jensen is conscious and her brother, Caleb Jensen, trained her to respond to questions by blinking her eyes and giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down. She has retained a minute amount of movement on the left side of her body. Otherwise, she is paralyzed but her family hopes to transfer her to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for extensive rehabilitation.
Jensen’s mother, Darlene, explained that doctors believe the stroke occurred “as a direct result of the neck manipulation.”
“The surgeon … that saved her life, and every other doctor that has looked at her, have all agreed that this happened as a direct result of the neck manipulation,” Darlene said. “The chiropractor called 911 and then called me and told me that she was ‘having a reaction to the treatment.‘” Meanwhile, the family received legal counsel and the cause of the paralysis has no official conclusion.
Caleb recalled talking with his sister the morning before the fateful chiropractor appointment. “You’re talking to her and then 30 minutes later, she’s in the hospital and now in the ICU,” he said. He added that Caitlin is “able to open her eyes every now and then and wake up a little bit. And kind of move her hands to squeeze a little. But that’s it.”
Read: I’m a 20-year-old planning assisted suicide — I’ve had enough
“Sharing her experience…”
While WJCL couldn’t reach Jensen’s chiropractor for comment, Dr. Steve Ranicki, a chiropractor in Pooler, Georgia, said Caitlin’s story is “incredibly rare”. He explained that artery dissections “often produce symptoms of headache and neck pain, which then drive people to a doctor’s office. Once they’ve gone to the medical doctor or chiropractor the likelihood is, unfortunately, a stroke will occur”. He added that the same injury could be triggered by tilting the head back at a hair salon or during “horseplay.” 
In a post by Darlene on Caring Bridge, she clarified that Caitlin had never been in an accident or experienced any kind of physical trauma before this incident. In fact, she had been healthy her whole life. She had recently finished her chemistry degree, so a lot of her time was spent studying or working in the lab.
While the risk is low, ‘neck cracking’ or high-velocity neck manipulations do come with a risk of stroke, albeit a small risk. Since this risk is not zero, some chiropractors refuse to conduct the adjustment stating that there are other treatments that give just as much relief but with less risk. One of those chiropractors is Aaron Kubal. He discusses topics, including this story on his Instagram page. He gives his reaction to this story and explains his position on neck cracking in the video below.
Caitlin’s mother is thankful for all of the support and outreach. “Caitlin’s story is reaching more people, and we are grateful for all the shares. We believe it’s very important to tell her story, and we hope that in sharing her experience, we may help others avoid the same kind of injury. These incidents are not nearly as rare as they should be! Thank you for all of your support, your love, your prayers, and your positive energy. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude.” 
What Happens at a Chiropractor Appointment?
Chiropractors use procedures called adjustments or spinal manipulation. It involves using their hands or tools to apply controlled force to a spinal joint in order to improve spinal motion and physical function. Headaches, neck pain, and back pain are common reasons to seek out a chiropractor. 
Chiropractic adjustment should be done by a trained and licensed professional. Otherwise, serious complications can occur, including a herniated disk (or worsening a disk herniation), compression of nerves in the spine, and a stroke after neck adjustment like Jensen experienced. Therefore, the treatment is not recommended for those at risk of stroke, have cancer in their spine, severe osteoporosis, and a bone abnormality in the neck. 
Overall, chiropractic adjustments are considered safe if performed by an experienced professional. Mild side effects after an appointment can include temporary soreness and stiffness in the treated area. Additionally, not everyone finds the treatment helpful, and scientific studies on chiropractic care suggest only a moderate amount of benefits. It’s recommended to do thorough research and speak to your healthcare provider about which chiropractor would be most beneficial for you.
Keep Reading: Florida Teen Has Leg Amputated After “Devastating” Shark Attack
- “Caitlin Jensen’s Medical Expenses.” GoFundMe. Linda Foster.
- “Georgia College Graduate Paralyzed After Visit to the Chiropractor, Family Says.” People. Tommy McArdle. July 13, 2022
- “4 Week Update.” Caring Bridge. Darlene. July 15, 2022
- “Chiropractic adjustment.” Mayo Clinic. March 16, 2022
- “The Safety of Chiropractic Adjustments.” Very Well Health. Lana Barhum. June 16, 2022