Neck Stretching Causes 28-Year-Old Man to Suffer Major Stroke

Everyone feels the need to stretch their neck every once in a while, but in rare cases it can cause more than a satisfying pop. A 28-year-old Oklahoma man ended up in the hospital after tearing his vertebral artery by stretching his neck to alleviate neck soreness.

Josh Hader was working from his home in Guthrie, Oklahoma when he felt a familiar soreness in his neck and tried to alleviate as he had done many times before, by stretching his neck a bit. Only this time, as he used his hand to apply a bit more pressure, he heard a loud pop and instantly knew something was wrong. His left side went numb almost immediately, so he quickly checked to see if his face was drooping, one of the most common signs of a stroke. His face looked fine though, so he assumed he must have just pinched a nerve and went to get some ice packs. That’s when he noticed he couldn’t walk straight.

Photo: Jesper Aggergaard/Unsplash

“As I’m walking to the kitchen, I quite literally could walk only at about a 45-degree angle,” 28-year-old Hader told KOCO. “I literally couldn’t walk straight. It was almost walking just straight to the left.”

By the time Josh’s father-in-law arrived to drive him to the hospital, his condition had worsened significantly and he wasn’t able to walk at all. A CT scan showed that there was no bleeding in his brain, but doctors confirmed that he was having a stroke and that he needed receive a drug known as tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which dissolves blood clots.

Josh was transferred to Mercy Hospital where he remained in the intensive care unit for several days, until being moved to a rehabilitation center where he learned to walk again and regain control of his left arm. Hader was lucky to be alive, and within several weeks he was on his feet again and even helping out with chores around the house. He still has balance issues, difficulty controlling his left arm and lack of sensation in his right arm and leg, among other symptoms, but doctors say it could have been much worse.


“He could have formed more clot on that tear and had a life-ending stroke,” Dr. Vance McCollom , a doctor at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, said. “He could have died.”

“They’re actually very deadly,” Kazuma Nakagawa, a stroke neurologist, confirmed to The Washington Post.

It turns out Josh Hader teared his vertebral artery when stretching his neck, which could have resulted in a coma, a permanent vegetative state or even death. So he can consider himself pretty lucky. He doesn’t wan’t to push his luck though, so even though he gets the urge to crack or stretch his neck sometimes, he doesn’t want to do it anymore.


Doctors say that strokes caused by neck cracking or stretching are ultra-rare, but just last month we wrote about Natalie Kuniciki, a UK woman who was left partially paralyzed after her vertebral artery burst when she involuntarily cracked her neck

Dr. McCollom, who treated Hader, says that there’s a right way and a wrong way to stretch your neck, so you may want to take his advice, just to be sure.

“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,” the Oklahoma doctor said.