Neck Injury from Chiropractor

Posted by personc @personc, Oct 14, 2019

I hope this is the right forum for this. I am desperate for help.

About 2 months ago, I went in for a routine chiropractic adjustment. I had been getting adjusted on a roughly weekly basis due to having a rib out of place, but my chiropractor had been adjusting my back and neck as well even though I wasn't having neck problems. My normal chiropractor wasn't in, so I saw the other chiropractor in the office. The new chiropractor was much rougher than my normal one. When he adjusted my neck, he was extremely aggressive and the adjustment itself was very painful, which is not normal for me. My neck was sore immediately after.

When I got home that night, my neck pain began getting significantly worse and I developed a severe headache. I also started having chills, spiked a fever and became extremely nauseous/started vomiting a lot. I attributed the latter to acid reflux, although I hadn't had acid reflux in awhile. When I woke up the next day, the fever was gone but I still had very severe neck pain/headache and was vomiting uncontrollably. Throughout the day, the pain in my neck was so horrible that I was unable to do anything besides lie on the couch. When this continued for a third day, I called my doctor and chiropractor. The chiropractor insisted that my symptoms were normal and told me to come in for another adjustment. I came in to see my normal chiropractor, who said that my neck was very far out of alignment. He wanted to adjust it again so I reluctantly agreed to let him adjust it with a device that applies mild force to the neck instead of with his hands. After this, I had somewhat less pain but was still in enough pain that I couldn't drive or work. I also began having pains on one side of my neck/head and experiencing severe headaches arching from the base of my skull to my temple. The nausea went away at this point.

I was able to get in to see my primary care several days later for a checkup. She seemed to think that the injury was not serious. I expressed concerns about the possibility of a dissected artery and she pretty much dismissed them. She did order an x-ray, as my spine was extremely tender at the base of my neck. The x-ray ended up showing no evidence of a fracture, so I was just told to take ibuprofen and use heating pads for the pain. The pain continued but eventually became intermittent and manageable. I started a new job about 2 weeks after the injury and was able to basically function at work if I took a lot of ibuprofen and used icy hot gel/patches. Sleeping and sitting (or any activity that put pressure on my neck) were both very painful and turning my head was painful and difficult. Walking around was better. I had to sleep propped up on my couch for a couple of weeks after the initial injury.

Up until the first weekend of this month, my pain was getting better. On the 4th, I decided that I was feeling well enough to go mountain biking. I took a few hard landings and was pretty bumpy terrain while I was riding, so I was in pain but able to manage. Later that night, however, the pain went back to being excruciating and awful, almost as bad as the first night. Since then, it has only mildly improved. I have been taking ~1,000 mg of ibuprofen and ~600 mg of Tylenol every day, in addition to using Icy Hot about 4-5 times per day. I have horrible pain, especially at the base of my neck and top of my upper back. I have muscle spasms in my shoulders and moving my head feels painful and sometimes causes me to feel lightheaded. Driving, sitting and sleeping are painful. Doing my job is extremely difficult; I have had to call off work twice in the last week and need help for coworkers to lift objects and open doors. Working out and playing sports are completely out of the question. The pain radiates down my arms, legs and back — more on the right side than the left — and I sometimes feel pain and tingling in my right hand. I'm not sure if this is relevant, but I've also had a lump in my throat for several days, accompanied by minor difficulties swallowing and breathing at times. I've also had to pee much more often than usual and have been extremely constipated since this injury occurred. My neck clicks every time I breathe deeply or move in certain ways, which never happened before. I have also had tenderness and pain at the sides of my neck as well.

I had an MRI last Friday and was able to see the pictures, but I am not able to diagnose since I'm not a doctor. My neck looks relatively straight and my spinal cord doesn't look damaged, though I can only see my neck in one position. I'm still waiting on the results.

I guess my question is, what could be wrong with me? Why am I in such horrible pain after this seemingly minor incident? Should I be concerned about my safety? Should I be pushing hard to see a specialist?

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@personc I just read your post and so sorry for that awful experience . I would see a neurologist for sure to have him look at you and my I add advocate for your health . It is you that is in pain not the Dr. so stick to your guns and ask all the questions you can think of . You may have a case against that chiropractor .In the past I had a rough chiropractor but not like you had . Good luck and please let us know how you are doing.


@personc I just read your post and so sorry for that awful experience . I would see a neurologist for sure to have him look at you and my I add advocate for your health . It is you that is in pain not the Dr. so stick to your guns and ask all the questions you can think of . You may have a case against that chiropractor .In the past I had a rough chiropractor but not like you had . Good luck and please let us know how you are doing.

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Thank you for your kind words. I will ask my doctor about a referral to a neurologist.


@personc Good this will be a good place to start hopfully he can find out if it is nerves


@personc I had a spine injury that eventually led to spine surgery. I am not a medical professional, but I have experienced similar symptoms and the progression over time leading to compression of my spinal cord. You are describing symptoms of a spine injury and I do not believe this is minor. Your neck should not be straight, it should have a backward curve. Muscle spasms can straighten it. An x-ray will not show damage to the discs, you need an MRI for that, and the diagnosis should be from a spine specialist, not a primary care doctor. A neurologist is a good place to start, but I would also find a good spine surgeon for an evaluation and usually they have a neurologist they refer to and work with, so it might be best to look for a surgeon to start. You mentioned concern for an artery dissection which was dismissed, but there are other possible compromising issues that can come from instability that can compress an artery and it may related to your neck position. You need to know if you have instability, and having instability at the skull spine junction is dangerous and can be life threatening. You are right to be concerned, but you need some expert advice. No one should ever touch you neck for an adjustment or physical therapy unless your spine has been evaluated for stability by an expert.

Breathing is controlled in part by the phrenic nerve which exits the spine around C3 and runs alongside the spine. Something that puts pressure on this nerve can cause breathing issues. If that is the case, this can be serious. Trouble with bladder or bowel function can be caused by spinal cord compression and become a permanent problem. Incontinence can be caused by spinal cord injury. Your doctor has to examine all the slices of images through the spine to find a problem. There is also a bone, the hyoid, that sits across the front of the spine near C3 and it is there for swallowing function. If this bone is out of place, it could be a problem. Pain radiating to the rest of your body from your neck sounds related to me, but a doctor needs to tell you that. You wouldn't be able to determine yourself if you have spinal cord damage. I had a compressed spinal cord because of a ruptured disc and bone spurs pressing into it, and that did not show permanent damage on an MRI. My surgeon told me myelopathy doesn't always show on an MRI. It can show up when it is worse and permanent as a whitish area in the spinal cord. Clicking when moving your neck can come from the facet joints. They may be pressed closer together because of neck spasms and if so, this can cause arthritic changes. Even if you do not have serious issues right now, an injury to a disc can cause a crack in the outer fibrous layer. Over time with aging, discs start to dry out and shrink a bit, and cracks can open up, weaken the fibrous band that can lead to a rupture of the jelly like nucleus. Damaged discs can bulge for years before this happens. That happened to me 20 years after a whiplash. Once the jelly comes out, it causes inflammation that causes compression and bone spurs to grow because of uneven pressure on the vertebrae as the spine tries to stabilize itself.

I hope that you will understand how this can be serious. When you loose strength in your arms because of a spine injury, the muscle can start to atrophy. That happened to me too, and since my surgery a couple years ago, I have rebuilt muscle, but I'm still working at it. I would recommend getting opinions at places that are not related to the places where your doctors practice. Go to the very best spine specialists you can find. Look for them at a teaching medical center. If you can go to a Mayo campus or hospital in the Mayo Care network that has access to Mayo specialists remotely, that would be my recommendation. Your MRIs should be read by radiologists who are spine experts, and the spine surgeons. My surgery was at Mayo in Rochester and their expertise was far above all 5 of the other spine surgeons who evaluated me, but would not help me. If that is an option, I highly recommend it. I'd be happy to answer any further questions. You may also want to consult an injury lawyer, and it may not be a good idea to make public posts about your injuries because anything you say can be used against you even if it was said in error or doesn't accurately represent your case. You have to let the specialists make all the evaluations. I would not allow any more chiropractic adjustments. You are injured, and need to know what your next treatment should be when you consult a specialist. I would be happy to answer questions and you may contact me privately if you wish. If you want to delete your post, contact a moderator. If this becomes a legal issue, you would probably be given that advice. This isn't a minor injury and you are having symptoms that are serious. I hope I have explained the issues well. You are going to have to advocate for yourself, and not every spine surgeon is a good one. Do your homework and figure out where you can find the best doctors. Some will suggest spine injections to avoid surgery. That will not cure anything or fix the problem, and injections also have serious risks and can lead to adverse complications and disability. I had one injection and had a bad reaction, but over time it resolved itself, and I refused to do that again when it was suggested. My case and symptoms were misunderstood and 5 surgeons turned me down which is why came to Mayo, and I am so glad I did. Get as many opinions as you need to make an informed decision.

Here is a link about the Mayo Clinic Care Network

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