CF 069: How To Not Miss A Dissection & De-legitimizing Complementary Medicine

Today we’re going to talk about a risk vs. benefit assessment strategy to exclude Cervical Artery Dissection and we’ll talk about de-legitimizing complementary medicine.  We’ll have some fun and maybe even get a little worked up. 

Don’t Miss A Dissection!

But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music

Chiropractic evidence-based products
Integrating Chiropractors
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OK, we are back. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.  

You have crumbled into Episode #69 .I have to tell you that I had a friend razzing me saying I need to change the bumper music. He knows that I’m a musician and that I wrote the music, played all of the parts on the bumper music, and recorded it. It’s nice, if you’re going to create a podcast, if you don’t have to pay someone for the bumper music. Lol. He needs to get used to the bumper music because it’s not going anywhere unless I write and record another one somewhere down the road. 


Moving on….We’re here to advocate for chiropractic while we also make your life easier using research and some good solid common sense and smart talk. 


Part of making your life easier is having the right patient education tools in your office. Tools that educate based on solid, researched information. We offer you that. It’s done for you. We are taking pre-orders right now for our brand new, evidence-based office brochures available at Just click the STORE link at the top right of the home page and you’ll be off and running. Just shoot me an email at if something is out of sorts or isn’t working correctly. 

If you’re like me, you get tired of answering the same old questions. Well, these brochures make great ways of educating while saving yourself time and breath. They’re also great for putting in take-home folders. 

Go check them out at under the store link. While you’re there, sign up for the newsletter won’t you? We won’t spam you. Just one email per week to remind you when the new episode comes out. That’s it. 


Let’s talk a bit about the DACO program. I’m down to my last 39 hours and it’s feeling pretty good. The stuff I have learned having to do with the way we communicate with a patient….what effect that has on a person and their tendency for chronic pain is fascinating. I don’t want to nerd out too much on you right now but, as you probably know, we have little muscle spindles (also known as motion detectors) in all parts of our body. They help us know where our limbs are or how we are oriented in the three dimensions. 

OK, so we have 16 little motion detectors per gram of muscle in our fingers. OK, 16 per gram in our fingers. Remember that. We’re pretty good with knowing where our fingers are without paying attention to them right? Think about typing for example. 

We only have 2 motion detectors per gram of muscle in our traps. Not very many. 

Now consider that we have 242 little motion detectors per gram of muscle in the deeper intrinsic muscles of the upper cervical spine. That’s an insane amount when compared to other areas of our body wouldn’t you agree?

There are so many….to the point that anatomists are looking at these upper cervical muscles as a receptor organ as much as they look at them as muscles. When you consider you get your balance, sensorimotor function, all the way down to how your individual vertebrae move atop each other based on how your upper cervical spine takes in proprioceptive information and translates that into subconscious muscle functions like posture……One word……two syllables…..Day-um. Daaaayum. 

Personal Happenings

If you hear something here that you really like and would like it in written form rather than spoken, just hop onto, find the episode, and just scroll down to copy and paste it. If you’re using it for content or on your website for some reason, just be cool and give us some credit please. I’d sure appreciate it and I’m sure the researchers we discuss would too. 

Item #1

As many of you have probably heard, a very popular yoga instructor was holding an odd pose some time ago and caused herself to suffer a tear in an artery in her neck which led to a stroke. She’s fine now so thank goodness. Her story has been circulated a bit and, unfortunately, ABC’s Good Morning America decided to bring chiropractic into the spotlight on the deal. Which is total and utter BS. 

Anyway, they went into the whole Kate Mae debacle and that the LA coroner laid the blame on the chiropractor for causing it when we know that the most common cause of cervical artery dissections is traumatic onset. And we also know that Katie Mae had a bad fall at a photo shoot before going to the chiropractor. 

From my understanding of the case, the chiropractor didn’t cause that stroke. He didn’t help it but he damn sure didn’t cause it. 

If you want more… in a lot more,….please go listen to Episodes #13, 14 and ,15 of this podcast. They will line it all out for you in common sensical, magical, reasoning. You’re going to love it. 

If you don’t know the research that shows the benefits for cervical manipulation vs. the almost zero risk, well then you need to listen to those episodes and I’ll link them in the show notes so you can find them easily. 13, 14, and 15 just go listen to them and learn how to back up your positions if you’re ever questioned. Please. 

That leads us into this first one called “A risk-benefit assessment strategy to exclude cervical artery dissection in spinal manual-therapy: A comprehensive review” by Aleksander Chaibi and Michael Bjorn Russell[1]. It was published in the Annals of Medicine in the December edition 2018.


They start out by saying.”Cervical artery dissection refers to a tear in the internal carotid or the vertebral artery that results in an intramural hematoma and/or an aneurysmal dilatation. Although cervical artery dissection is thought to occur spontaneously, physical trauma to the neck, especially hyperextension and rotation, has been reported as a trigger.”

Since manual and manipulative therapy are common treatments for headache and neck pain, which just so happen to be the most prevalent symptoms of cervical artery dissection, the authors aim of this review is to provide an updated step-by-step risk-benefit assessment strategy regarding manual therapy and to provide tools for clinicians to exclude cervical artery dissection. It’s so easy to Miss A Dissection

They say that cervical mobilization and/or manipulation have been suspected to trigger artery dissection but this is based on case studies (low level research) that are unable to establish direct causality. 

They relate to the ‘chicken and the egg’ discussion as to what came first; the artery dissection or the manipulation? So, instead or proving a nearly impossible causality hypothesis, this paper aims to provide clinicians an updated step-by-step risk-benefit assessment strategy tool in order to 

  1. raise our understanding of cervical artery dissection
  2. understand the risk and applicability of cervical manual-therapy
  3. give us clinicians tools to better detect and exclude the condition. 

I’m all about this. We almost never…almost never are the actual cause of an artery dissection. Our deficit is not recognizing it when it comes in, adjusting the region and APPEARING that we caused it. THAT’S our big issue. Perception. Not causality. 

This is a fairly lengthy paper so we are going to continue just hitting the highlights and the more interesting aspects of it without getting pulled down into too many stats and minutiae. There’s that word again. Take it. Use it. Love it. 

They say that headache and/or neck pain are the most common initial symptoms while other symptoms are Horner’s syndrome and lower cranial nerve palsy. The headache, understandably, is a new headache. New onset. And it’s unilateral. Why would you have it on both sides when there was only one artery dissection? 

The headache has a sudden onset and the time from headache onset to stroke can be from a few minutes to a few weeks. Which is scary as all hell. That’s what my teenager calls ‘Nightmare Fuel.’

Headaches and neck pain are two of the biggest reasons patients seek out care at our clinics, I think you’ll agree. And, although these are thought to occur spontaneously, physical trauma to the neck (especially traumas involving hyperextension and rotation, are highly suspect for triggering one. 

They say, considering it’s happening and people are coming to us with it happening, it’s sort of really really important that we are able to catch the red flags. Especially considering what can happen if we miss them. 

By the way, this isn’t a ‘Scared Straight’ kind of episode. I hate when gurus try to sell their products by trying to scare the holy hell right out of you. That lights me up every time. If I’m in a seminar and some dope starts a diatribe about how offices that aren’t listening can lose their entire practice and thousands and blah blah blah. If I’m in that class, I get up and show them my backside as I exit. 

The HIPAA gurus are the worst aren’t they? They have to ready to leave and jump off a cliff if you don’t hire them for $10,000. It’s stupid and a good way to slip a vulnerable person into depression. Nope, that’s not what we’re doing here. 

First, I’m not selling anything. Unless you love my office brochures. But that’s just to make life easier. Nothing bad happens if you don’t want them. Lol. 

Second, this is a message of ‘Hey, looky here….we get some scary stuff coming in to our offices here and there, and…..if you’ll just pay attention for a little bit here, we may help you keep people safe and get them the help they really need.”

That’s all

OK, continuing on: One big thing you have to remember is that the World Health Organization regards annual mobilization and/or spinal manipulative treatment conducted by chiropractors to be a safe and effective treatment with few, mild, transient adverse effects. The adverse effects being local soft tissue tenderness and tiredness on treatment day, maybe some muscle soreness, things like that. 

There is no strong evidence at all that spinal manipulative therapy is the culprit. 

When describing the internal carotid artery and the vertebral arteries, this statement about the vertebral arteries really jumped out at me. They said, “the vertebral artery is thought to more susceptible to injury due to extreme rotatory head movements, especially in the transverse foramen of the first cervical vertebra.”

You guys and gals out there using rotation in your cervical adjustments….I think there’s an argument to be made here. Can you get the same effect in your patients by doing away with the rotation-based adjustments and going more to extension/lateral flexion type maneuvers like a Diversified cervical break for example? The answer is yes by the way. You most certainly can get the same effect. 

A big difference from regular neck pain is that when a dissection is present the pain is typically sudden, sharp, severe, steady and described as being different from prior neck pain experiences. In general it’s describes as throbbing (remember – it’s vascular), it can be said that it’s pounding, pulsing, and beating. 

Compared to descriptions for purely musculoskeletal complaints which can be described as aching, sore, heavy, hurting, deep, cramping, or dull. There are pretty stark contrasts between the two. 

Also, in general, musculoskeletal pain can be reproducible or provoked or diminished. You can change it basically. Whereas, with a vascular event, you cannot change it. Vascular events aren’t changed by using analgesics either. In Vertebral Artery Dissection specifically, the pain will often progress to the occipital area and medially along the nuchal line. 

The paper highlights the need for a good History to be taken on the intake. Certainly regarding the time of onset.

  • Any recent trauma? (I added that one)
  • Was there a recent acute respiratory infection?
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia such as Vitamin B6, B9, or 12 deficiency?
  • Is there a low body mass index and low cholesterol history?
  • Is the patient a smoker?
  • Do they have pulsating tinnitus?
  • Any connective tissue disorders like Ehlers-Danlos type IV, Marfan’s, Osteogenesis Imperfecta?

They state that a dissection presents to a chiropractic office at a rate of 1 time per 8.1 million patient encounters. 

The paper mentions an interesting paper we’ll have to look up and cover. They say no serious adverse events were reported in a large prospective national survey conducted in the UK that assessed all adverse events in 28,807 chiropractic treatments which included 50,276 cervical spine manipulations. Hell yeah. 

It’s just nice that the further into research you get, the more and more you find in favor of chiropractic. It is so rare that you see conclusions saying things like, “spinal manipulative therapy had no effect.” You just don’t see it usually. 

As part of their conclusion the authors make a recommendation that I will echo gladly, enthusiastically even. 

They say, “Although the chiropractic profession evolved in the early nineteen hundreds as an art, philosophy, and science, neck manipulation should not resemble a martial art. Thus, when cervical manipulation techniques are being conducted, one must be specific when manipulating a single spinal segment, minimizing the end range in cervical techniques, especially rotational techniques, and minimizing force, all of which have been recommended to reduce the risk of serious AEs.”

Now, with many of your EHR software programs, you can set up your own macros. So I did. About a year ago. If I even sniff a dissection, They get the interrogation. 

Here’s how the interrogations starts, I hammer nails up under each finger nail and ask them why they’re in my country and what are their plans to destroy my government? That’s not true. Nobody would come see me after word got out that I really work for the CIA. Lol

OK, seriously, here’s how it goes in my office. I took these directly off of my macro:

  • First, I check all upper arm strength
  • Then sensation side to side including the face
  • Can they raise their eyebrows?
  • Is there any difference in the size of the pupils?
  • Nice, even smile?
  • Have them stick their tongue out….does it deviate to one side or the other?
  • Cross your hands and grab their hands like a double hand shake and have them grip your hands equally and see if there’s a difference. 
  • Have them shrug both shoulders and resist gentle pressure downward on the shoulders. 
  • Do they have a headache that came on suddenly and can be sharp or throbbing?
  • Do they have a headache that gets worse when they lay down?
  • Do they have difficulty speaking or swallowing?
  • Do they have any visual abnormalities?
  • Do they have unsteadiness or lack of coordination beyond what they would consider normal?
  • Do they have a recent onset of hiccups?
  • Are they having recent onset of pulsing tinnitus?
  • Do they have any nausea and/or vomiting?
  • Does the patient have signs of nystagmus?
  • Are there any other neurological symptoms present?
  • How about light-headedness, fainting, disorientation, or disturbances in ears, tremors, or sweating?

I originally planned on covering four papers this week but the stroke issue is just such a big deal, I chose to go a little more in depth so we’ll put those other papers on the back burner for now but we will get to them. 

I will briefly cover one more very short little finding that ties in to this. It’s called “De‐legitimizing complementary medicine: framings of the Friends of Science in Medicine‐CAM debate in Australian media reports” It was written by Monique Lewis[2] and published on the 21st of February 2019 in Sociology of Health and Illness. 

The abstract starts by saying that complementary and alternative medicine has developed into a a complex and formidable commercial, sociocultural and political force in Australia, and given it’s influence, it is a relevant subject for scholars, health practitioners, health communicators, journalists, policy-makers, and consumers of healthcare products and services. 

This paper considers a newer group in Australia called Friends of Science in Medicine which is an activist group of medical practitioners, researchers, and scientists. 

This paper searched for articles mentioning this group and then measured the patterns and frequencies of media frames, intonation, and sources that are featured in Australian mainstream news. 

The negative headlining and intonation of reports predominated, along with framing Complementary and Alternative Medicine…..AKA….US…as a lucrative, undisciplined, and unethical industry as well as an illegitimate healthcare approach. 

The findings of the paper also offer findings into how journalists respond, replicate, or reconstruct the framings that are provided by an influential and elite group of medical practitioners and scientists, and readdresses issues surrounding the need for more critical health reporting in Australia. 

OK…..let’s give the friends of science in medicine some credit where it is due can we? Are we and other CAM providers lucrative? Good Lord, I sure as hell hope so. I have a family and a couple of knucklehead kids to send through college. That ain’t cheap, folks. I’m sure you’re aware. 

Are we undisciplined? Some of us, absolutely are. No doubt. Too many of us, I’d say. There are people out there on their own islands with crystals and all kinds of potions doing whatever to whoever with no research to back it and no rhyme to the reason but, there are A TON of us who are highly educated and highly disciplined. It seems they’re just looking to lump us all into one group regardless I guess. 

Are we unethical…..well, like any profession, the answer is that there are some predatory chiropractors seeing patients 100 times a year. Shooting a ton of unnecessary x-rays and scaring people into long-term care. Whether that’s unethical or not is up to the individual practitioner to decide but I can sure see how an outsider looking in could determine it unethical. Again, on the other hand, there are a lot of us going by commonly accepted guidelines and probably risking actually UNDERtreating patients out of fear of giving the appearance of being one of ‘those chiropractors.’ There is certainly nothing unethical about that, my friends. 

Are we illegitimate. Well hell no. And if they’re not calling out PTs with all of these labels, then they’re just being complete asses because, like or not, the lines between PTs and DCs are very blurry these days. They cannot pretend chiropractors are bad guys but continue to embrace PTs at the same time. Because, in many cases, there is no difference other than spinal manipulative therapy. Hell, PTs work in DC’s offices. 

This Friends of Science in Medicine is a group of bitchy people that really have little more to do that to form a silly group that makes them feel powerful on some level. Kudos to them. Take it from me. It’s hard as hell to build something that has influence in any sector of life these days. So, whatever. Yay for them. But it’s nothing. They can scream and holler but, at the end of the day, they’ll take care of their patients and we’ll take care of ours. 

There is an ever-expanding market today of patients looking for chiropractic. They no longer want the Friends of Science in Medicine’s pills. They no longer want the visits where you go in, some guy or girl in a white coat pretends to listen to you but cuts you off and then gives you a script for some pill that might, just might make you back end fall out of your body. We’re past that now. But they aren’t. 

We’re past surgery for this and for that. We’re past a pill for this or for that. We tried it. The result is called The Opioid Epidemic and it’s going to claim more lives in America than the Civil War did before too long. Last year claimed more lives than 20 years of counting deaths from the Vietnam War. Are you kidding me that these fools think they have some moral freaking high ground to stand on, behind a big white, glistening podium, and look down on other practitioners that are getting patients better non-invasively, non-pharmacologically, safely, and effectively? 

Are you freaking serious right now with this ball of crapoloa? You can’t make it up. This world gets dumber and dumber by the day and it’s the so-called people in power leading the way. Not those of us in the trenches changing the lives of our patients. It’s the leaders that are the fools. 

That crap makes me want to go kick a kitten and step on a baby rabbit. 

Santa Maria…..makes me want to cuss in Spanish. I swear. 

OK, I’m done. Chiropractors doing things in a patient-centered way are awesome. Here’s the message. 

Chiropractic evidence-based products

Integrating Chiropractors
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The Message

I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment instead of chemical treatments like pills and shots.

When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show that many patients get good or excellent results through chiropractic for headaches, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, to name just a few.

Chiropractic care is safe and cost-effective. It can decrease instances of surgery & disability. Chiropractors normally do this through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal time requirements or hassle to the patient. 

And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, chiropractors can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health of the patient!

Key Point:

Patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment offering the least harm.

That’s Chiropractic!


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Help us get to the top of podcasts in our industry. That’s how we get the message out. 


We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward. 


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About the Author & Host

Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger


1. Chaibi A, R.M., A risk-benefit assessment strategy to exclude cervical artery dissection in spinal manual-therapy: A comprehensive review. Annals of Medicine, 2018.

2. Lewis M, De‐legitimising complementary medicine: framings of the Friends of Science in Medicine‐CAM debate in Australian media reports. Sociology of Health & Illness, 2019.