Have chiropractors ever accidentally broken someone's neck?
Allegedly potentially deadly techniques
None of what you have described usually causes death. They can cause serious injuries, but rarely death.
It is not possible for a palm blow in the nose to break the bone and drive it into the brain. This is a complete myth. There is no truth at all. If anything, the bone will break into pieces or break in two. It is not driven back to the brain.
A knife handshake on the side of the neck is a common blow in martial arts of all kinds for one reason: it causes people to faint. There are many videos showing examples of this on Youtube.
What happens is the vagus nerve takes a hit and the vagus nerve measures the blood pressure flowing through the main arteries of the neck. When hit, it sends a signal to the brain that the blood pressure is way too high. So the brain responds with a signal telling the body to drastically lower blood pressure. Since the blood pressure wasn't really high at first (it was just a glitch caused by the blow to the neck), the blood pressure suddenly drops so low that the brain faints.
It is known that in rare cases death occurs when someone suffers a stroke. Not only is it rare, but since the stroke can occur for up to days after impact, this technique cannot be reliably used to kill someone on the spot.
Hitting the arteries in the neck sometimes removes arterial plaques on the inside of the arteries, especially in older people who have more plaques in the arteries. This plaque then gets into the brain and clogs the smaller blood vessels in the brain. This causes a stroke that can lead to death.
Strokes can also be caused by cracks in the neck arteries, which then cause blood clots. The blood clots break up and travel to the brain, where they clog smaller blood vessels in the brain. And that causes a stroke.
It is rare that we see this today in the martial arts or as a result of real fighting. One reason for this is that it rarely happens that someone successfully knives the neck of someone who is moving and can block them or flinch out of the way. It turns out to be a lot harder than martial arts practice suggests.
This is more commonly documented as a side effect of neck manipulation in chiropractic care. Chiropractors perform a sudden twist of the neck. It's a bad idea because this procedure carries a significant risk of rupturing the cervical arteries and causing strokes. Don't let anyone try it on you.
Some people suggest that the knife-hand chopping on the side of the neck actually cuts the nerves of the spine, or breaks the spine itself. The muscles and tendons of the neck offer high resistance to blows from the side. That alone would dissipate the force of the blow to such an extent that no bones in the spine could be broken.
In addition, the head and neck are not actually held in place. It's like a speedbag. The head will move. So the neck does not receive the full force of the blow.
The cervical vertebrae are also mostly immune to this type of blow. It is almost impossible to break the spine in one fell swoop of any kind. It's because of evolution. The way the spine is shaped makes it really difficult to break in one blow of any kind. It usually requires a gun.
The only way to damage the nerves in the spine is to attack an area of the spine that is closer to the surface and therefore less protected. They could hit the nape of the neck or the top of the shoulder. You wouldn't break the vertebrae this way, but you could cause an injury to the nerves that could lead to death.
Attacking the neck can cause the head to shake too. If done very quickly and with a lot of force, the head may tear some bones in the spine. And that could lead to death. It relies on a completely relaxed neck, which is almost never the case in a real fight. We don't see that in street fights or professional fights at all.
Just to reiterate, knife hand strikes on the side of the neck rarely cause death. And it cannot be used reliably for this purpose. When death occurs as a result of this strike, it is usually unpredictable and is often caused later by a stroke.
As for the temple, it hurts to be hit there and it can result in a knock out or a concussion, but usually not death.
One of the things to keep in mind is that a lot of martial arts "knowledge" has been passed down from generation to generation. Part of this could be due to a misunderstanding of what was actually observed. Some of this is exaggerated (usually for marketing purposes). Most of it is just a myth.
As for things based on real observations, something could have been considered the cause of death. But was it the only cause of death or were there other factors? As in the case mentioned above where a knife hand strike killed a guy, it wasn't because the punch broke his neck or anything. It was because it loosened some plaque and caused a stroke. But even that is not an everyday result.
And another thing to realize is that these arts predate modern medicine. Back then, smacking your palm in the nose could actually result in death. It would not have been like pushing the nasal bone back into the brain as people might have thought at the time. Instead, it could be a simple concussion or some other head trauma that is easily diagnosed and treated these days.
I'm just glad you didn't mention dim-mak, the so-called "death touch" or "delayed death touch". That is a whole discussion in itself. And I'd tell you it's basically all myth and misunderstanding, just like the above.
Many martial artists chase after these "amazingly powerful, if true" things only to realize that they are basically a myth and a waste of time. I spent quite a bit of time studying dim-mak and acupuncture, for example, and I can honestly say it was a waste of time and a red herring. Do not worry.
In conclusion, I just want to say that fighting of any kind can lead to death, often in an unintended way. Head trauma can still be fatal in this day and age. Just hitting someone in the face or in the head can kill them. It happens. Blood clots happen and can kill.
People sometimes go home after a fight, get a headache, take an aspirin, and go to bed. They don't realize it's serious, so they don't go to the doctor. Some don't wake up after going to bed. So always get a doctor checked out if you ever get into a fight, especially if you have been hit in the head.
I hope it helps.
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