The dangers of a Y-strap neck adjustment

The Y-strap neck adjustment is a technique commonly used by chiropractors and even TCM practitioners to help with neck pain. It is used to help with cervical traction or depression. Along with its perceived benefits, this procedure also comes with significant risks and potential dangers. In today’s blog post, we will discuss what you should know about the Y-strap neck adjustment.

What is the Y-strap decompression tool?

y strap neck manipulation, neck pain singapore
You have probably seen the y strap neck device on social media before

The Y-strap cervical adjustment is made popular (or potentially invented) by chiropractor Joseph Cipriano. It seems to be designed based on the Pettibon System, which is a chiropractic approach to manage neck problems.

During a Y-strap neck manipulation, the chiropractor will have you lie face-up on a chiropractic table. They will then place a Y-shaped contraption around your neck. It will be secured on one end secured under your chin and the other held by the chiropractor. This Y-strap is purported to provide controlled traction or pulling force to your neck.

When you are relaxed, the chiropractor will then do a short but forceful yank on the Y-strap. During this manipulation, you may hear a characteristic popping or cracking sound may be heard. This sound is caused by the release of gas bubbles from the joint fluid and is entirely normal. You may find your own body being pulled upwards towards the chiropractor as well.

Using Y-strap decompression tool for stretching

neck traction device, neck stretches
If you are looking to stretch your neck the neck traction device is a safer alternative It is machine operated and stretches your neck in a slow and controlled way

It is also possible to use the Y-strap to stretch your muscles and ligaments without any tugging. To use for stretching, the chiropractor will start pulling on the Y-strap. As they apply the traction, you may feel a gentle stretching sensation along the length of your neck. The traction is usually held for a brief moment before being released, allowing your neck to return to its normal position.

After the Y-strap adjustment, the chiropractor may perform additional manual therapies to further work on your neck muscles.

Understanding the joints of your cervical spine

facet joints, cervical spine
The bones in your spine join to each other via the facet joints Each joint is also closely held together in the facet capsule Based on its anatomy it is not designed to be pulled apart

The cervical spine is the uppermost portion of your spine. It consists of seven vertebrae, labeled C1 to C7. These vertebrae are stacked on top of each other and form the structure that supports your head and allows for various neck movements.

The facet joints, also known as zygapophysial joints, are critical components of the cervical spine. Each vertebra has two facet joints, one on each side. These joints connect the vertebrae and enable them to move relative to each other. The facet joints play a crucial role in facilitating movements such as bending forward and backward (flexion and extension), side bending (lateral flexion), and rotation.

The orientation of the facet joints varies along the cervical spine. In the lower cervical region (C3 to C7), the facet joints are oriented at an angle of 45 degrees. This allows for a wide range of movements, especially in flexion and extension.

The upper cervical region, consisting of C1 and C2 vertebrae, has different facet joint orientations. The first cervical vertebra (C1), also known as the atlas, has no true facet joints with the second cervical vertebra (C2), known as the axis. Instead, it has a specialised joint called the atlanto-axial joint, which allows for the majority of rotation of the head.

Facet joints of the cervical spine are not designed to be pulled apart

Based on the anatomy of how the facet joints are designed, facet joints are not intended to be pulled apart or separated forcefully. These joints are part of the complex anatomy of the spine and serve to provide stability and facilitate controlled movements between the vertebrae.

The facets joints are positioned to glide past each other at a 45 degrees orientation to allow for flexion and extension. Rotation is also possible but only to a moderate extent.

A gentle distraction force applied to the neck in a controlled and appropriate manner can feel relaxing. Forceful pulling or manipulation of the neck can put excessive stress on the cervical vertebrae, facet joints, discs, ligaments, and nerves, potentially leading to injuries and complications. Serious consequences may even include the risk of stroke in rare cases.

How does a chiropractic adjustment cause a stroke?

vertebral artery, chiropractic stroke
The vertebral arteries travel to your brain via your cervical spine By pulling your vertebrae apart with force you may injury your vertebral arteries

Chiropractic adjustments have been associated with a rare but serious complication known as vertebral artery dissection. In some cases, this can lead to a stroke. A vertebral artery dissection occurs when there is a tear in the lining of one of the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain. This tear can create a blood clot that may obstruct blood flow to the brain, potentially leading to a stroke.

While vertebral artery dissection is rare, certain movements and manipulations of the neck, such as those used in Y strap decompression device, c0uld be a potential risk factor. The medical community does not fully understand the exact mechanism by which manipulation may cause cervical artery dissection. However, researchers believe that excessive force can lead to injury or tearing of the artery’s lining.

Understanding the “serpentine” course of the vertebral arteries

vertebral artery, cervical spine
The winding and twisting path of the vertebral artery through C1 and C2 makes it susceptible to injury It should become clear why tugging on your spine with brute force is not advisable

The vertebral artery is a major blood vessel that plays a crucial role in supplying oxygen-rich blood to the brain. It courses through the cervical spine, including C1 and C2 vertebrae, before reaching the skull.

At the C2 vertebra, the vertebral artery takes a different course. Instead of traversing through the transverse foramen, it goes through a bony canal within the C2 vertebra called the vertebral groove or the sulcus. This arrangement is specifically designed to protect the vertebral artery from excessive movement and potential injury during neck movements.

The intricate pathway of the vertebral artery through the cervical spine, especially its unique passage through C2, highlights the intricate design of the body’s circulatory system and the crucial role this artery plays in maintaining proper blood flow to the brain. It also emphasises the importance of safe and cautious manipulation techniques during any procedures involving the cervical spine to prevent potential damage to this vital blood vessel.

To reduce the risk of complications, it’s essential to steer clear of any unnatural movements or excessive force on the neck. Opt for controlled manipulations that do not involve vigorous tugging. If you notice that the force applied is enough to move your entire body, even slightly, it’s a sign that it’s too much pressure for your neck. Prioritising gentle and controlled techniques during neck treatments can help ensure your safety and well-being. Remember, your comfort and health should always be the primary concern during any form of neck therapy.

What are HVLA spinal adjustments?

chiropractor singapore, jesse cai
Our chiropractor Jesse Cai stopped offering chiropractic adjustments because they are at best temporary pain relief This is why most chiropractic clinics require you to keep coming back The results simply dont list

High-Velocity Low-Amplitude (HVLA) spinal adjustments are a type of chiropractic manipulation that involves a quick and precise thrust your spine. This technique aims to restore normal joint mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall spinal function.

During an HVLA chiropractic adjustment, a chiropractor will position the patient in a specific way and then deliver a quick, controlled thrust to the targeted vertebra. The chiropractor typically administers the thrust using their hands or sometimes with the aid of specialised chiropractic instruments.

The term “high-velocity” refers to the speed at which the thrust is delivered. “Low-amplitude” means that the movement is shallow and does not involve significant motion.The goal is to achieve a therapeutic effect on the joint without causing excessive movement or discomfort.

Because a HVLA adjustment does not involve significant movement, the risk of it tearing your artery is rare. By choosing to receive the evidence-based chiropractic care, you can avoid putting your body through unnecessary risk.

Y-strap manipulation comes with unnecessary risks

y strap manipulation, neck chiropractor
Did you know the controversial Y strap chiropractic adjustment may do you more harm than good This adjustment involves a forceful tug from a chiropractor and is often done with little force control

You can get a Y-strap manipulation device from Lazada or Shopee for under $30 in Singapore. However, that doesn’t mean you should get it or that it is good for you.

The forceful and rapid pulling motion involved in a Y-strap neck adjustment can place excessive stress on the delicate structures of the neck. It can potentially cause neck injuries, nerve damage, and even a risk of stroke in rare cases. As with any neck treatments, it is crucial for you to be fully informed about the potential dangers of a Y-strap neck adjustment before considering this technique as a treatment option.

Finding freedom from pain with exercise and lifestyle modification

For some, exercise may seem tedious and unappealing, especially when dealing with neck pain. Yet, despite its lack of excitement, exercise remains the safest and most effective approach to treat neck pain. Engaging in targeted exercises allows you to work on your body’s natural strength and resilience, leading to improved neck health. By committing to a regular exercise routine, you can gradually alleviate pain and discomfort while building a robust and healthier neck. Embracing this proactive approach empowers you to take charge of your well-being, paving the way for a more active and pain-free lifestyle. So, even when exercise may not seem thrilling, the long-term benefits it offers are truly worth the effort.

Discover how Square One Active Recovery can be your solution to finding freedom from neck pain. Our expert team is dedicated to helping you achieve a pain-free and active lifestyle. If you’re ready to take the first step towards improved neck health, drop us a message via the form below. Let’s embark on this journey together towards a happier, healthier you!


Based in Singapore, Square One Active Recovery offers treatments with a very big difference. With our evidence-based exercise approach, you can achieve your recovery goals in just 12 weeks. Not getting results from your chiropractor, TCM doctor or physiotherapist? Talk to us and find out how we can take your recovery to the next level.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.

    author avatar
    Dr. Jesse Cai

    Jesse, a chiropractor with a unique approach, believes in empowering his clients to lead functional and fulfilling lives. Jesse worked with high-level Australian athletes, including roles such as Head Sport Trainer for Forrestfield Football Club, board member of Sports Chiropractic Australia, and member of Sports Medicine Australia.

    author avatar
    Dr. Jesse Cai Chiropractor
    Jesse, a chiropractor with a unique approach, believes in empowering his clients to lead functional and fulfilling lives. Jesse worked with high-level Australian athletes, including roles such as Head Sport Trainer for Forrestfield Football Club, board member of Sports Chiropractic Australia, and member of Sports Medicine Australia.
    author avatar
    Dr. Jesse Cai Chiropractor
    Jesse, a chiropractor with a unique approach, believes in empowering his clients to lead functional and fulfilling lives. Jesse worked with high-level Australian athletes, including roles such as Head Sport Trainer for Forrestfield Football Club, board member of Sports Chiropractic Australia, and member of Sports Medicine Australia.