Ernst describes the case. You can read the actual case study here.
A 45 year old male with presented to his internist with a two-week history of right sided neck pain and tenderness, accompanied by tingling in the hand. The internists’ neurological examination revealed nothing abnormal, except for a decreased range of motion of the right arm. He referred the patient to a chiropractor who performed plain X-rays which apparently showed “mild spasm” (how anyone can see spasm on an X-ray is beyond me!). No magnetic resonance imaging study was done.
The chiropractor proceeded manipulating the patient’s neck on two successive days. By the morning of the third visit, the patient reported extreme pain and difficulty walking. Without performing a new neurological examination or obtaining a magnetic resonance study, the chiropractor manipulated the patient’s neck for a third time.
Thereafter, the patient immediately became quadriplegic. Despite undergoing an emergency C5 C6 anterior cervical diskectomy/fusion to address a massive disc found on the magnetic resonance scan, the patient remained quadriplegic. There seemed to be very little doubt that the quadriplegia was caused by the chiropractic spinal manipulation.
The patient sued both the internist and the chiropractor, and the total amount of the verdict was $14,596,000.00 the internist’s liability was 5% ($759,181.65).
The patient had been medically diagnosed with hypertension, diabeties (Type I) with a history of diabetic retinopathy, depression/anxiety disorder (insomnia, panic attacks), leg ulcers, weight gain/obesity, cellulitis, and high cholesterol. And he was referred to a chiropractor. After the second spinal manipulation, the patient reported feeling worse yet a third procedure was done that resulted in the quadriplegia.
Yes, this may be rare but its a REAL risk of chiropractic. Since chiropractic has been shown to be basically ineffective, the risk is not worth it.