There are four main arteries that bring blood to the brain: two in
the front of the neck called the carotid arteries and two in the back of
the neck called the vertebral arteries. The carotid arteries supply the
front and middle portions of the brain with blood while the vertebral
arteries join together to form the basilar artery that supplies blood to
the back portion of the brain and the brain stem.

A stroke occurs
when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and oxygen can’t get
to the brain tissue, which causes damage. Each area of the brain is
programmed to run different bodily functions, so symptoms associated
with stroke can be mild to severe depending on the amount of area
involved. Stroke victims commonly have problems with speech, behavior,
thought processing, motor skills, and memory.

There are basically
two ways a stroke can occur: 1) Blockage in one of the many arteries
(called Ischemic stroke, which is associated with about 83% of cases),
or 2) A tear, leak, or rupture in a blood vessel (called hemorrhagic
stroke, which is associated with about 17% of cases). Again, symptoms
are directly related to where the blockage or bleed occurs and the area
deprived of oxygen. Mini-strokes (called TIAs or Trans-Ischemic Attacks)
can precede a larger stroke and last a few minutes to several hours.
These are caused by a temporary disruption in blood flow and SHOULD NOT
BE IGNORED, as these are important warning signs of a potential larger
impending stroke!

Studies have shown that the symptoms associated
with stroke are similar to those that drive people to either their
family doctor and/or chiropractor—most notably, neck pain and headache.

So,
what is the difference between the symptoms of a “normal” neck
pain/headache vs. one associated with stroke? In some cases, not much!
However, a stroke-related headache is often SUDDEN, SEVERE, and UNUSUAL
for that person. The tension-type “normal” headache may be part of the
patient’s long-term history, not severe or unusual, and NOT typically
accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness.

A 2008 study
found that the incidence rate of stroke occurring in the clinics of an
MD vs. a DC were IDENTICAL. In other words, it’s not the treatment
performed by either type of doctor that caused the stroke but rather the
stroke had already occurred and the symptoms drove the person to see
either their MD and/or DC. In recent case reports, two different
patients presented to their chiropractors with these headache/neck pain
symptoms. In both cases, their doctor properly identified they were at
risk for a subsequent stroke and referred them to the appropriate
healthcare professionals BEFORE any treatment was administered.

Classic
stroke symptoms include: 1) Sudden weakness or numbness in the face,
arm, or leg, usually on one side of the body; 2) Difficulty in speaking
or understanding language; 3) Altered vision (poor acuity or
blurriness); 4) Sudden severe headache; 5) Unexplained balance loss or
dizziness. If any these occur, call 911! Time IS of the essence for
minimizing brain damage!