Woman Left Partially Paralyzed After Involuntary Neck Cracking Causes Stroke

Natalie Kuniciki, a 23-year-old paramedic from London, UK, was left partially paralyzed after her vertebral artery burst when she involuntarily cracked her neck, causing a blood clot to trigger a stroke in her brain.

We all crack our joints every once in a while, whether accidentally or on purpose, but apart from that satisfying “pop” sound, nothing really happens. However, in Natalie Kuniciki case, a simple and seemingly harmless thing like moving her head caused a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. The 23-year-old paramedic was watching a movie at her home in West Hampstead after a night out when she involuntarily stretched her neck. Only this time, the routine maneuver caused a loud “crack” sound in her neck. Natalie didn’t really feel any pain so she ignored it and went to bed, only to wake up 15 minutes later unable to move her left leg. When she tried getting up to go to the toilet, she collapsed, so the frightened young woman called an ambulance.

Photo: Element5 Digital/Unsplash

At the hospital a CT scan confirmed that Natalie Kuniciki had suffered a stroke, and after hearing about the unusually loud neck crack, doctors explained that when she stretched her neck the vertebral artery in her neck must have burst, causing a blood clot to form and trigger a stroke. The young paramedic was left almost completely paralyzed on the left side of her body and spent over a month in the hospital trying to regain control of her limbs.

“When the consultant told me I’d had a stroke I was in shock. The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture. It was just spontaneous and there’s a one in a million chance of it happening,” Natalie said. “I don’t smoke, I don’t really drink, I don’t have any family history of strokes so it’s quite strange it happened to me when I was just moving in bed.”

Kuniciki spent three hours in surgery, but while doctors were able to repair her damaged vertebral artery, they couldn’t remove the blood clot that had caused the stroke. They say it will dissolve in time, but they can’t predict when or if the young paramedic will make a full recovery. She has regained control of her limbs and can walk for short periods of time, but she still has a long way to go.


“I’m really clumsy. I can’t do up buttons, I find it too difficult. I can feel hot and cold now but I still feel a bit numb,” the 23-year-old said. “People need to know that even if you’re young something this simple can cause a stroke. I wasn’t even trying to crack my neck. I just moved and it happened.”

It’s worth mentioning that while scary and tragic, Natalie Kuniciki’s stroke is truly a freak accident. People crack their joints, including their neck, all the time and they’re fine. Plus, the paramedic didn’t even mean to crack her neck, she just moved her head and her artery burst. That’s not supposed to happen.

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