How many times have we gone to a salon for a hair cut or to a parlour for a beauty treatment and received a complimentary head and neck massage? Little do we know that a harmless neck massage could be a harbinger of something much worse, like a stroke? Yes, you read it right and your eyes and brain are serving you well.
Our brain is by far the most important organ of the body and that is probably a good reason that God decided to keep it at the top, well protected on all sides by a strong skull. However smart the guy upstairs may have been he had to find a way to connect the brain to the body and that’s where the whole problem started.
The brain communicates with the whole body as the nerves fibres descend down through the neck and then spread all over. The blood supply to the brain also comes up from the neck in the form of four big tubes, two in the front and two at the back. Neck thus is kind of important. As these blood vessels travel north to the brain they are vulnerable to injury and damage. Any vigorous neck movement that pulls the neck backward or pushes it forward can injure the blood vessels. Injury to the blood vessel is known as dissection in medical terms and can lead to the devastating paralytic attack or brain attack.
You will be surprised to know that even though it may seem unlikely but we are subjected to such movements on a daily basis. A massage therapist, a chiropractor, a beauty therapist, a barber, or anyone who have their hands on your neck can literally kill you (no pun intended). Neurology literature is filled with such case reports where neck manipulation or wrong positioning of the neck has led to injury to the blood vessels leading to a stroke or paralytic brain attack. Terms like “Barber Chair stroke” or “Beauty parlour stroke” have been coined for the same reason. As the blood vessel gets injured the blood supply to the brain may get blocked or reduced leading to neurological deficits like paralysis.
Simple Steps that can keep you out of danger
The first step in making a change for good is the awareness of the situation. Now that you are aware of the danger, simple steps can prevent such disastrous outcomes. Just follow the precautions mentioned below and you should be safe and ready for a good relaxing massage (Don’t touch the neck).
- Avoid any vigorous movements or overextension of the neck.
- Any movement that creates pain should be avoided.
- Do not crack your neck or go for neck manipulation unless under the supervision of well qualified professional. Avoid it, if possible.
- Injury to a blood vessel causes neck pain may cause dizziness, vertigo, nausea or vomiting. Do not ignore these symptoms. Rush to the hospital.
- Avoid neck massages by unqualified staff.
How would you know if you were having a stroke due to vessel injury/dissection?
STROKE: REMEMBER THE 6 S METHOD TO DIAGNOSE STROKE
- SUDDEN (symptoms start suddenly)
- SLURRED SPEECH ( speech is not clear, as if drunk)
- SIDE WEAK ( face, arm or leg or all three can get weak)
- SPINNING ( VERTIGO)
- SEVERE HEADACHE/NECK PAIN
- SECONDS ( note the time when the symptoms start and rush to the hospital)
ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS CAN BE PRESENT IN ANY COMBINATION. YOU DONT NEED ALL SYMPTOMS TO DIAGNOSE STROKE.
What to do next?
Rush to the hospital. STROKE OR BRAIN ATTACK IS TREATABLE. Every minute counts. According to a study done by researchers in 2006 in the USA, a patient with ischemic stroke loses 190,0000 brain cells every minute. Every 10 minutes the brain loses brain cells equal to the population of Delhi.
Can a patient recover from paralysis?
Yes, stroke is treatable and patients can recover very well IF the treatment is given in time.
What is the single most important factor in stroke care?
The most important part of stroke care is the patient. Patients tend to ignore their symptoms and delay the treatment which can lead to irreversible paralysis and even death. If the patient and the family are aware of stroke symptoms they can reach the hospital in time and can get treated.