IMAJ | volume 21
Journal 8, August 2019
Spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) is commonly used as an effective therapeutic modality for a range of cervical symptoms. However, in rare cases, cervical manipulation may be associated with complications. In this review we present a series of cases with cervical spine injury and myelopathy following therapeutic manipulation of the neck, and examine their clinical course and neurological outcome. We conducted a search for patients who developed neurological symptoms due to cervical spinal cord injury following neck SMT in the database of a spinal unit in a tertiary hospital between the years 2008 and 2018. Patients were assessed for the clinical course and deterioration, type of manipulation used and subsequent management. A total of four patients were identified, two men and two women, aged 32–66 years. In three patients neurological deterioration appeared after chiropractic adjustment and in one patient after tuina therapy. Three patients were managed with anterior cervical discectomy and fusion while one patient declined surgical treatment. Assessment for subjective and objective evidence of cervical myelopathy should be performed prior to cervical manipulation, and suspected myelopathic patients should be sent for further workup by a specialist familiar with cervical myelopathy (such as a neurologist, a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spinal surgery). Nevertheless, manipulation therapy remains an important and generally safe treatment modality for a variety of cervical complaints. This review does not intend to discard the role of SMT as a significant part in the management of patients with neck related symptoms, rather it is meant to draw attention to the need for careful clinical and imaging investigation before treatment.