Trying to work out a sore neck sent Josh Hader to the hospital.
As CBS News reports, the 28-year-old dad from Guthrie, Oklahoma, had been dealing with an aching neck for more than a week. Thinking he had made it stiff by sleeping on it awkwardly, Hader was trying to loosen it up by twisting and “popping” his neck.
But after trying to stretch out his neck one morning, things immediately went wrong. Hader told KOCO:
“The moment I heard the pop, everything on my left side started to go numb. I got up and tried to get an ice pack from the fridge, and I remember I couldn’t walk straight.”
Hader said he felt a tingling sensation and “kind of thought I was having a stroke, but I didn’t believe it.”
The dad was having difficulty walking and suffering from blurred vision, so his father-in-law rushed him to the hospital. He was soon surrounded by doctors who confirmed his first instinct. He was having a stroke.
Dr. Vance McCollom, who treated Hader, explained to Fox 13 how the dad had managed to give himself a stroke while popping his neck. The motion had caused Hader to tear an artery:
“When he popped his neck, he tore arteries that go to the bone of the neck, where the neck joins the skull at the base of the brain. The way he twisted the neck caused a bisection.”
As bad as it was, Hader’s condition could have been worse. As McCollom told KOCO, the dad could have died or ended up with locked-in syndrome:
“If you have a stroke in that area, you can end up with a patient who’s locked in. They completely understand what’s going on, but they can’t communicate. They can’t move anything. They can’t speak. They can’t breathe.”
As a result of the stroke, Hader experienced blurriness and double vision and needed to go through physical therapy. At first, he couldn’t walk without a walker and says that he’s still experiencing some weakness and balance issues.
And there was another strange side effect. Hader spent more than a week with nonstop hiccups.
“Those were terrible,” he told Fox 13. “Literally two weeks of straight hiccups since the stroke happened. Towards the end, they would make it almost impossible for me to breathe for a few seconds, and that was scary.”
Still, Hader says the worst consequence of his stroke isn’t physical — it’s the fact that he hasn’t been able to help his wife care for their two children.
In fact, Hader’s wife had warned him against popping his neck. McCollom told KOCO that Hader was trying to apologize to her as he was being wheeled into surgery:
“He wanted to tell his wife he was sorry that he had popped his neck. His wife had been telling him, ‘Don’t pop your neck. You’re going to cause a stroke.'”
Though it’s unusual to give yourself a stroke by popping your neck, it’s not unheard of. Earlier this year, Natalie Kunicki, a 23-year-old paramedic from London, was hospitalized for a stroke after she cracked her neck and tore an artery.
McCollom says that they’ve seen similar cases caused by chiropractic manipulation, and he warns that it’s not safe to crack your neck by twisting it. He told KOCO:
“If you want to pop your neck, just kind of pop it side to side. Don’t twist it. Whenever you twist it there’s a risk of tearing that vessel.”