DATA SOURCES: A literature synthesis used MEDLINE-PubMed and MANTIS literature searches. A total list of 99 relevant articles was generated. Additional references were collected from citations incorporated within the included articles.
RESULTS: Both neck manipulation and motor vehicle collision events apply loads to the spinal column rapidly. While neck manipulation loads are slower to develop and displacements smaller, they may reach peak amplitudes on maximum effort comparable to those seen in low-velocity collision experiments. In contrast to reports that the vertebral artery experiences elongations exceeding its physiological range by up to 9.0 mm during simulated whiplash, strains incurred during cervical manipulative therapy have been reported to be approximately one ninth of those required for mechanical failure, comparable to forces encountered in the course of diagnostic range of motion examination. Additionally, long-lasting abnormalities of blood flow velocity within the vertebral artery have been reported in patients following common whiplash injuries, whereas no significant changes in vertebral artery peak flow velocity were observed following cervical chiropractic manipulative therapy.
CONCLUSIONS: Perceived causation of reported cases of cervical artery dissection is more frequently attributed to chiropractic manipulative therapy procedures than to motor vehicle collision related injuries, even though the comparative biomechanical evidence makes such causation unlikely. The direct evidence suggests that the healthy vertebral artery is not at risk from properly performed chiropractic manipulative procedures.
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