After a few weeks of tightness, all Josh Hader wanted to do was crack his neck and relieve the ongoing tension. But once it finally happened, he ended up in the hospital.
“I used my hand to apply a slight bit more of pressure, and then heard a pop,” the 28-year-old told NBC News. “Then everything on my left side started to go numb.”
Hader “kind of had an idea that this might be a stroke,” but his face wasn’t drooping on one side, a common sign. Relieved, he walked to the fridge to get an ice pack and found that he “was tripping over myself trying to walk straight.”
His father-in-law took him to the emergency room, where a CT scan showed that he had suffered a “major stroke.”
“I remember hearing a doctor at the ER yelling out to staff, ‘we have 12 minutes to administer [the drug treatment],’ ” Hader said. “That’s when everything kind of landed home.”
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The father of two was then moved to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, where doctors told him that he had a tear in the vertebral artery, which led to a blood clot and then the stroke. Hader said that doctors said the “direct cause” of the stroke “was by stretching my neck.”
After four days in the ICU, Hader moved to physical therapy and was out of the hospital a couple weeks later. He told the Washington Post that he’s now able to help with household chores, though he still had trouble with his balance and a lack of sensation in his arms and right leg.
Just last month, the same thing happened to a 23-year-old paramedic in London.
“The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture,” Natalie Kunicki said. “It was just spontaneous and there’s a one in a million chance of it happening.”
And in 2016, model Katie May died at age 34 after a trip to the chiropractor to fix her neck also led to a stroke. But Dr. Kazuma Nakagawa, a stroke neurologist, told the Post that these cases are fairly unusual. “99.9 percent of the time you pop your neck and it’s fine,” he said.
Still, Hader told the Post that he has no interest in cracking his neck again.
“I still wake up every once in a while with the urge, and I have to stop myself,” he said. “It’s still a struggle, but I definitely don’t want to pop my neck anymore.”
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