Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) has been recognized as an effective treatment modality for many back, neck and musculoskeletal problems. One of the major issues of the use of SMT is its safety, especially with regards to neck manipulation and the risk of stroke. The vast majority of these accidents involve the vertebro-basilar system, specifically the vertebral artery (VA) between C2/C1. However, the mechanics of this region of the VA during SMT are unexplored. Here, we present first ever data on the mechanics of this region during cervical SMT performed by clinicians. VA strains obtained during SMT are significantly smaller than those obtained during diagnostic and range of motion testing, and are much smaller than failure strains. We conclude from this work that cervical SMT performed by trained clinicians does not appear to place undue strain on VA, and thus does not seem to be a factor in vertebro-basilar injuries.
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