So far with this blog I have developed a reputation for sometimes serious, sometimes snarky, keystrokes, but today I want to be 100% serious with my stroke talk.
A cerebrovascular accident (CVA), aka stroke, aka brain attack; is a very real and very serious life-threatening issue that requires rapid medical attention. It is also something that we take very seriously and I, and our entire team, are trained to be on the lookout for at all times.
A chiropractor can often be the first line of treatment for someone experiencing stroke-like symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of a stroke are also the very things chiropractic can help with the most including headache, variation in sensation (ie pins and needles), lightheadedness, vertigo, numbness/weakness, difficulty walking, just to name a few. The most important part of managing a stroke in time for proper medical intervention is catching it early. That’s why a thorough initial visit is important to rule-out major red flags prior to treatment and to ensure the patient is in the right place for the current condition they’re experiencing.
Any person, anywhere, including a doctor’s office, that you see who may be experiencing a severe headache, one-sided paralysis, difficulty walking, speaking or balancing needs to have the possibility of a stroke ruled out. A stroke is a medical emergency and should be thought of as a brain attack (meaning on par with what your response to a heart attack would be) do not delay in calling for help.
You need to spot a stroke ‘FAST’ so the National Stroke Association educates the public with an even ‘FASTER’ acronym.
Any time a patient comes in with a complaint remotely close to a stroke sign, or symptom we, as a team, are on high alert for these areas of concern. When the brain is being attacked during a CVA, or the events leading up to a CVA, it alters how the brain functions. What makes this situation so serious is that the brain is possibly being deprived of oxygen.
First, we need to identify if your headache is coming from your spine and nervous system, or if it is an insufficiency of your cardiovascular system. The two can seem similar initially, but by monitoring the areas listed above in ‘FASTER’ we can quickly determine the most likely cause of symptoms. Second, as the ‘R’ says, we react. Meaning that if any of these are areas of concern we investigate further. For example, if someone has a severe headache and we note that they appear to be off balance, or unstable while walking down the hallway that is when I would closely evaluate for facial paralysis, slurred speech and eye movement, etc. Those results combined with the rest of the exam would determine if the patient is in the right place and allow us to ‘react’ appropriately.
Everyone, not just chiropractors, should be familiar with stroke signs. If you suspect any possibility of a stroke you need to activate the emergency response system in your area. For most of us that means calling 911, or telling someone to call on your behalf. A majority of stroke cases, as it relates to chiropractic visits, were likely already occurring prior to the patient coming in for their visit. We are committed to helping patients be as healthy as possible without using drugs, or surgery, so our role needs to include accurately recognizing each situation and reacting appropriately.