28-year-old man suffers stroke from cracking his neck

By Caitlin O'Kane

/ CBS News

A man from Oklahoma says he suffered a stroke after stretching and cracking his neck, tearing an artery.

Josh Hader told CBS News his neck had been sore for more than a week before the stroke occurred, and he thought sleeping in an uncomfortable position may have caused the pain. The 28-year-old twisted his neck to pop it one morning and immediately knew something went wrong.

"Right after I heard a pop, everything on my left side went numb," Hader told CBS News. "It started to tingle… I kind of thought I was having a stroke, but I didn't believe it."

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He couldn't walk straight and his vision blurred. He quickly realized he had to go to the emergency room. Hader's father-in-law rushed him to Mercy Hospital in Guthrie. "My father-in-law was holding my right side, trying to assist me in, and I remember almost taking him down."

Once they got to the hospital, a swarm of doctors and nurses converged on Hader. He knew it was serious and he soon got the diagnosis he feared: He was having a stroke.

Fortunately, Hader's stroke was not life-threatening, but he did spend almost a week in the ICU and suffered several complications. He started therapy to relearn how to walk, something he said he used to take for granted. "Immediately after [the stroke] I was unable to walk without a walker… and a few days after it was only 10 to 20 feet without a walker. I would get exhausted," he said.

The father of two was also having trouble balancing on his left side, but luckily, he didn't lose his strength, and was able to overcome that complication. He said he tried to stay positive throughout the whole process. "I don't want to be a downer."

Hader has also been posting frequent updates about his condition on Facebook, often using humor to lighten the situation. In one post, he joked that he was listening to "The Stroke" by Billy Squire.

As for the cause of the stroke, Hader said popping his neck tore the vertebral artery. "My understanding is the vertebral artery runs along your spine and runs between a couple bones. So when you crack your neck, it could kind of crank on that artery."

He said his doctors don't know if the artery was already weakened or if there were contributing genetic factors. "Every doctor I've seen said they've never seen a self-manipulation of this type of stroke. They've seen it from chiropractic manipulation or a car wreck. But never someone doing it to themself," he said.

Hader said his doctors are still evaluating what happened, and told him not to pop his neck again. He said it's been difficult not to stretch in the morning, something that feels natural, but caused his stroke.

Strokes can often cause paralysis or loss of muscle movement, difficulty talking, memory loss and several other complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can be caused by a blocked artery, or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel. As for popping an artery from cracking your neck, Hader wants to assure others that his case is rare, but he certainly has not cracked his neck since.

First published on May 3, 2019 / 3:17 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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