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Risk of stroke from neck exercise

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Several months ago, I went to therapy for a problem with neck pain (very slight bulging disk at C5/C6 with no stenosis; no clear explanation for the pain). My neck is feeling much better after doing the prescribed exercises, and I've since incorporated the stretches into my regular exercise program (3X a week). Stretches include lying on the floor and turning my head slowly from side to side (as far as possible without forcing), touching my chin to my chest and gently pressing my head back against the floor, and flexing my head/neck sideways towards my shoulder (supported by my hand) so my neck is flexed as far as possible without forcing. All of these actions are done slowly and carefully, none are forced, and total time for all neck stretches is less than 3 minutes.

I recently read an article that alarmed me about a possible stroke risk associated with chiropractic neck cracking, yoga, or even everyday things like getting your hair washed in a basin at a salon or turning your head sharply while driving (as the carotid arteries can tear or snag against bone).

Should I be concerned about doing these exercises long-term as part of my regular workout?

Part of me feels like carefully flexing my neck a few times a week will improve flexibility (maybe even arterial flexibility) and will preserve my range of motion.

Though I also certainly don't want to take unnecessary risk, especially when it comes to something potentially life-changing like a stroke (though of course I have to turn my head in everyday situations).

Thanks for any advice.

Category: Internal Medicine Specialist

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Category: HIV- AIDS Specialist
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Consult reply with inputs from Dr.Vivek Verma , Sports Medicine Physician.


Thank you for choosing DoctorSpring.

The neck exercises and stretches you have mentioned in your query DO NOT carry any additional risk for stroke due to the vertebral artery / carotid artery damage.
There is theoretical risk of blood vessel damage and stroke from sudden twisting / turning / traction of the neck. But this more of a text book situation and practically this is not a worry. In additional the movements you are doing are controlled repetitive and phasic. These kind of movements are safe and will not damage any blood vessel (for example as opposed to a sudden unexpected twisting of neck).

Just make sure the exercises you are doing are the right ones for your neck. (depending on the localisation of the bulge) as guided by your trainer.

Hope this helps
Feel free to ask followups
Thank you

Patient replied :

Thank you for the prompt and very informative response! It eases my mind quite a lot, and I am doing the exercises as directed by my therapist at the time (in fact, they're slightly more gentle now).

Just one quick follow-up. I'm assuming this also extends to things like swimming or turning one's head to look behind you in a vehicle? As long as the movement is controlled and not forced, turning your head as far as possible in these everyday situations is not something to worry about in regards to blood vessel damage/stroke?

Thanks again.


Ofcourse this extends to swimming, turning neck, driving and any other day to day activities that involves turning of head. Intact a causal relationship has not been established with artery dissection ( blood vessle injury and non traumatic head injury) .

So you need not worry about this particular concern at all. You should take this whole though out of your head !

Hope this helps
Do feel free to ask for clarifications / additional queries.
Thank you

Dr. Jaydeep Tripathy
Category: HIV- AIDS Specialist
MBBS from Sri Ramachandra University in December 2011
M.Med (Family Medicine) - TNMGR University, Chennai
MBA-MPH in Public Health in March 2016, SRM University
Finished AFIH in March 2016, SRM University
MRCP ( UK ), Internal Medicine, Royal College of Physicians, June 2016
Fellowship in Diabetology from Martin Luther University in January 2017

Currently Resident Physician, in MD Radiodiagnosis - Kamakshi Memorial Hospital, Chennai
Dr. Jaydeep Tripathy and 4 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you

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