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MDLinxUsing a Massage Gun on this Body Part Can Increase Stroke Risk

Massage guns and neck manipulation: Assessing the stroke risks and implications for clinical practice.

Using a massage gun on the neck can pose significant stroke risks due to potential arterial dissections, a condition exacerbated by tissue frailty. Dr. José M. Morales, a vascular neurologist, highlights the need for healthcare providers to educate patients on the dangers of neck massages, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional medical attention for neck pain instead of relying on potentially harmful self-administered treatments.

Key Points:

  • Stroke Risks with Neck Massage: Using a massage gun on the neck can increase stroke risks due to potential tissue damage and arterial dissections.
  • Expert Warning: Neurologists recommend avoiding neck massages with massage guns and other aggressive neck manipulation treatments to prevent these risks.
  • Mechanism of Harm: Massage guns can weaken or tear the arterial lining, leading to cervical artery dissection (CeAD), a leading cause of ischemic stroke.
  • Case Studies:
    • A 2022 case report linked repetitive use of a massage gun to vertebral artery dissection in a 27-year-old female, resulting in headache, neck pain, and dizziness.
    • A 2023 case report described a 43-year-old woman diagnosed with vertebral artery dissection after using a self-administered massage gun, presenting with severe headache and neck pain.
  • Vulnerability of Arteries: Dr. Morales compares arterial layers to an onion, highlighting their vulnerability to force or manipulation, which can lead to blood flow interruption and clot formation, culminating in a stroke.
  • High-Risk Groups: Individuals with a family history of tissue frailty and women are at higher risk for CeAD, though identifying who is at risk remains challenging.
  • Clinical Recommendations:
    • Avoid neck manipulation, including massage guns, chiropractic adjustments, and deep muscle massages.
    • Address underlying causes of neck pain through medical evaluation and refer patients to specialists if necessary.
    • Emphasize the importance of proper body care and treating the root cause of neck pain rather than seeking immediate relief through potentially harmful methods.

“As a specialist in this field, my general mantra or thesis is to avoid any sort of neck manipulation or maneuvers—whether that means using a tool like a massage gun, having a chiropractor do some sort of manipulation, or having a masseuse do a deep muscle massage in your neck.”
– José M. Morales, MD, MSc, Vascular Neurologist and Neurointerventional Surgeon at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California

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