Recovery progress after stroke and vertebral artery dissection

I have been meaning to provide an update on my recovery progress after suffering the vertebral artery dissection and stroke. I had another MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) scan of my head and neck vasculature on January 30th, about eight weeks after the stroke and six weeks after beginning the anticoagulant therapy.

MRA results

The report I received from the radiologist who read/interpreted the MRA images stated that my vertebral artery had an “essentially normal appearing lumen” with no signs of the dissection from before. This is simply amazing to me that the dissected vertebral artery has healed completely.

While I’m overjoyed, I do need to await the consult with my neurologist to discuss the MRA report and determine what happens next in my treatment plan. That appointment is in about 10 days from today. My expectation is that I’ll still need one or more follow-up MRAs to watch for any potential issues with my vertebral arteries or cranial vasculature—just in case—and hopefully I can scale back or discontinue the anticoagulation therapy immediately.

Vertebral artery images: then and now

Below are images of my vertebral artery showing the dissection and narrowing of the lumen ← as compared to the same after six weeks of anticoagulant therapy → showing a return to normal size and function.

Comparison MRAs showing vertebral artery dissection ← and recovery →


And, below is the larger image of the latest MRA of the carotid and vertebral arteries with the right side showing signs of recovery.

My follow-up MRA showing recovery of right vertebral artery 8 weeks after dissection.

What now?

My primary doctor has cleared me for any activity I want to do including running, cycling, and other sports with the exception of anything at high altitudes (> 10,000 ft.) or at extreme pressure (scuba diving). I’m slowly getting back into my fitness/training regimen with an eye toward some ultra running goals later this year. With the recurrence possibility of this type of artery dissection and stroke slim to none, I intend to live life fully and demonstrate that exercise truly is the best medicine.


  1. says

    My 33 year old wife, Mary, had a left side VDA with stroke on October 25th, 2014. She was watching a movie in a theater with a friend and our kids and had intense headache. As she was walking out of the theater, her right side went paralyzed and she collapsed / sat down and was unable to speak or respond. Her friend called 911 and she was rushed to the hospital. I arrived 30 minutes later with our 2 month old son. From what they have told us since then, being post-partum was the risk factor that caused the dissection & clot.

    The ER doctor told me that TPA was the standard treatment within 3 hours of stroke but that it could either kill her or heal her. I had no experience with strokes whatsoever. I was standing there with our baby and didn’t want to kill her. I said no to the TPA. He phoned a Neurologist at the stroke center they were going to medevac her to, and the neuro asked him to ask me to reconsider and that she strongly advised me to let them give her TPA. I asked the ER doctor if that changed his opinion. He said no, he thought it was the right decision to not give her TPA, as it could kill her and she was likely to recover the same either way. I again went with the “no TPA” decision. I have lived in agonizing torment over that decision every day since.

    That was the “day of”. She was in the hospital for 2 weeks and spent another week at rehab. She was unable to talk, walk, swallow, and was completely paralyzed on her right side at first. By the time she left rehab, she was able to walk pretty well, had recovered some of the strength in her right side, but was still unable to speak much or read or write.

    Fast forward to now. She has regained nearly 100% strength in her right side and maybe 90% of her speech, but she still has headaches and dizziness. In the past 9 months, we’ve had two TIA scares and she spent 4 days in the stroke unit both times. The first time really was a TIA and the second time (about a week after running a 5k) we don’t know what it was… just sudden onset of extreme dizziness and a massive headache and a slight drooping on the right side of her face. Since then, she has struggled with almost daily dizziness. It comes and goes. Also, she has recurring headaches and pain on her right side from head to toe. Sometimes it’s less than others, but sometimes it’s really bad pain. Her right side also feels cold.

    She has been struggling with anxiety and fear. We have four children under 10 years old, and the thought that the pain in her head or especially the pain in the right side of her neck is another stroke coming on or another VDA can cause almost debilitating fear. Thus, why she asked me to do a google search for people with similar symptoms. She has made a lot of progress in speech and is reading and writing short sentences, but is unable to write this length, which is why I’m typing this.

    We’ve spent the last hour reading through the comments of this forum, much of the time in tears. Thank you so much to everyone who has written about their experiences, it is hugely encouraging for her to read about other people’s challenges. As many of you have mentioned, stroke recovery is an isolating experience and reading this forum has allowed her to hear the voices of others in similar circumstances. Thank you, thank you.

    Her big question is whether her neck pain and headaches could be symptoms of another stroke or VDA or something serious. The doctors have told her that a re-occurrence is unlikely as her one risk factor (being within the post-partum window) has passed and she is otherwise a healthy person. However, like others on this forum, we’ve received conflicting information from doctors and it sometimes seems like they are guessing rather than stating facts. Of course, no one can know the future. But can anyone give advice on how to overcome the fear of another stroke? Or whether neck pain and head pain necessarily means that something horrible is happening? Her VDA was on her left side, but it’s her right side head and neck that are really hurting.

    Thanks again for the encouragement and the hope that we’ve found here. God bless you all & may he grant each of you a full recovery and a long fulfilling life.


    • Leslie says

      I was also postpartum and suffered a VDA at 36. My neurologist says that someone with a VDA should never do activities where your feet pound (running), there is a sudden stop or start or risk of falling. Following those rules, I have been able to curtail the dizziness and headaches. She recommended stationary cycling for cardio. 13.5 months post VDA, life is finally getting back to normal. My anxiety over having additional strokes has lessened.

    • Rose says

      Going on a year from my VDA on the left side. I also enjoy working out. The pain and stiffness on the head and neck is horrible at times. The dizziness can be mitigated with practice. I take Topiramate it has helped me be able to do more. i understand what your wife is going through to an extent but everyone’s path is their own. Things start to turn on again. I think of it as light switches. At first I could barely walk or even drive. Now I am almost myself, my left side sometimes bothers me, for me it’s a warm numb like feeling. It comes and goes. I have found that elevation changes is hard on me. This was unexpected during hikes. Which makes sense as the blood can’t move as though as fast. I was gasping for air. I suggest avoid that… It hurt. I just take it one day at a time, and walk a lot . Good luck I hope it helps to know your not alone.


  2. Leslie says

    I am 1 year and 1 week post VAD, and 4 strokes in my cerebellum. I am scheduled for a CTA in the morning to check the status of my dissection. The last CTA showed it to no longer be occluded, but still not healed.

    I presented with severe left eye, neck and shoulder pain 6 weeks prior to the strokes. Saw numerous physicians and er trips to no avail. I was 12 weeks postpartum and they believed it was a hormonal imbalance giving me migraines. I thought I was the only one! Little did I know.

    I presented to the er vomiting, dizzy, unable to walk and in horrible pain. I was discharged after 12 hrs and told I had an ear infection. Only after another er visit 48 hours later was I admitted and given an mri.

    It has been a very slow recovery, but at 35 and having a new baby I am determined. The neck pain took 6 months to go away. I was left with left side weakness. My shoulder & arm being the worse. However, months of physical and vestibular therapy has me back in the gym. My workout routine still cannot contain high impact cardio, but I am weight training and doing balance/core exercises daily. I must ensure my head stays in a neutral position. Progress has been very exciting lately.

    I pray that my VAD has finally healed. I am very anxious to get my results tomorrow. Glad to hear others stories.

  3. says

    Thank you for this article. I lost a lot of weight 5 years ago due to carbs restriction, unfortunately I gained all the weight back in past two years. I’ve been thinking about going on this lifestyle for some time now, but I have a problem. I have big joints problems (deformation of patella and maybe CFS, docs are not sure yet) and it is impossible for me to work out now that I weight extra 20 kilos. I have also hypo thyroid.. Do you think I have any chance of losing weight without excercise? When I lost weight 5 years ago, I didn’t work out either – I started after losing my weight. But now I just can’t do it. I’ve tried everything except the keto diet. I’m 21 years old now. Thank you for your respond

  4. rose says

    Hi Kseniya,
    I also had a VAD on the left side, I am an active, young female. It’s a long road but the occupational and physical therapy will help. I also thought I would have progressed faster. It’s just how your body heals.
    It’s been not yet a year and I still have, “tingling, on the left side, and especially in my leg”. It’s sometimes a warm feeling. I also have some weakness in my “left hand”. Really right around my fingers, it’s annoying. Physical therapy will helps! It really dose! Walking as much as you can! The worst thing is the excruciating head pains, “migraines” as they call them. Pain from my lower neck up into my skull. However, I push myself hard these days now, trying to be the old me, sometimes I overdo it and pay the price. This I hope is encouragement to you, because when it first happened to me I could not even drive or walk straight. So best of luck and keep hope!

  5. Ksenia says

    Hi all, I’m a 27 year old female and had a VAD on the right side about 2 months ago. I just did my follow up MRA and both the dissection and blood clot are healed and gone! I couldn’t be more thankful for such results. However I still have a lot of tingling sensations on my right side. My leg is the worst. I’ve been taking gapapentin to alleviate some of the nerve pain but was curious if anyone else was experiencing similar tingling? Sometimes it gets better and sometimes it gets worse. I have anxiety over it, worrying that it won’t get better. Hope everyone else is well, and staying strong!

    • Andrea says

      Hi Ksenia,

      I also had a VAD about 2 months ago. I definitely had one on the left side, and possibly the right side as well (neurologist and radiologist couldn’t agree about the right side). I am a 32 year old female. I have not had a repeat scan of my arteries yet to know how I’m healing, but both of my MRI’s have shown no signs of stroke. I too am still experiencing lingering tingling, for me on the left side, and especially in my leg. I also have some weakness in my left hand. I have just started physical therapy and am hoping that it will help. I originally thought that since I did not have a stroke that I would be back to normal very quickly, but that has not proved to be the case. My symptoms also vary in intensity, sometimes barely noticeable, and other times so bad that I begin to limp from the pain, tingling, and occasional numbness in my leg (usually when I’ve done too much). I feel like it’s a delicate balancing act of moving enough that I’m not getting stiff or pinching a nerve, etc., and then taking it easy and not moving too much. I wish you the best of luck in your recovery!


  6. Tom says

    I had a VAD and stroke Oct 21st 2015. Symptoms were nausea and my left eye and lower head had pressure at 11pm. Tried to get up and left side collapsed. My one real symptom was no balance and left side heavy. My damaged artery was the left one. I was very lucky insurance oked PT and OT which is a whole other subject. One month in therapy and I was walking with a cane. Three weeks later walking with no help. I was working full time @two and a half months( sales inside and outside). One thing that intrigued me was how many times I was asked if I had just been in an accident in the ER. Most have trauma to go with it. I’ve had my 3 and 6 month MRI’s and very little improvement in the dissection area. Worried, I asked my neurlogist @Mayo and she replied the reason I continue to improve is the “cirle of willis” which is a back up reservoir of blood and arteries at the base of the brain. I swim 2-3 times a week, golf and went on two trips. Other than my balance still working on, I was like many of you really tired often. I’d come home after work and be in bed by six but that has gotten better too. The last thing I want to leave all of you is after the first 6-8 weeks my doctor said “you’re going to get to a point where in the past you noticed improvement daily or weekly, now look where you were 1-2 months ago to now and you’ll still see improvement.” Best of luck to all!

    • Shannon says

      Hi Tom,
      My recovery has been very similar to yours. At 33, I couldn’t walk, talk, or swallow following the stroke, but everything has improved and I’m probably at 90-95% of where I was prior. My damage is on the left side and my VAD did not heal. It will be two years at the end of September. It worries me that it didn’t heal but gotta love that Circle of Willis :) Best of luck to you in your recovery. The body is an amazing thing!

      • Tom says

        Shannon thanks for reply/input. It’s therapeutic knowing you’re not alone. Best wishes on everything!

    • Sue says

      I just found this fascinating website and wanted to ask a question because everyone here seems so knowledgeable about this situation!
      On 4/7/15 I woke up and tried to get out of bed..I felt incredibly unbalanced and was unable to stand–the dizziness was so profound that I soon began retching ..
      I managed to get to the stairs by dragging myself on the floor and finally got into a sitting position, where I remained for about 90 minutes. The lack of balance finally wore off and I was able to get up and walk. I felt “wobbly” but continued to improve. I emailed my neurologist whom I see for a separate issue. He brushed it off as nothing and told me if it continued to see my primary, and I went on with life. When I saw him a few weeks ago and went over what happened, he decided I could have had a dissection and scheduled me for an MRA which is supposed to happen in two days–more than 8 weeks post “event.” He also told me that “they don’t do anything about dissections” so it was not a big deal. Having read this blog I have a few questions..
      1) could this have been a dissection without any pain?
      2 ) Could I have gotten better that fast with no lingering symptoms
      3) had it been discovered on time would they have “treated” it somehow?
      4) would anything still be visible on an MRA?
      I am a 55 yr old female in decent health with a physically demanding job . The only thing I can think of that has bothered me since then is that I have been tired–but I work overnights so that could be a red herring! Any comments or info much appreciated!

  7. Diana R says

    Anyone have the experience of not being able to return to work after their VAD and stroke? I am 38 years old and had a stroke 7 months ago. I returned to work part-time after my stroke. I am a teacher and am finding it very difficult to walk around my classroom and school, grade papers, help students, and other daily tasks of a teacher. I am exhausted on the days I work. The main symptoms from my stroke are double vision, loss of balance, and loss of coordination. I also have loss of feeling/temperature on my left side. My VAD has not healed and dr’s say it is unlikely it will. I am considering applying for disability but hate the thought of that!

    • Rose says

      My symptoms were much worse before A nurse suggested topiramate. It helped my pressure and head pain.

    • Rose says

      Diana R have you tried occupational or physical therapy ? The dizzyness is uncomfortable almost painful but they expose you to it. This is suppose to rebuild the lost ability to deal? There is technical terms for it…. :) in time it could dose not last as long or feel as bad . The team that they sent me too was some great people.

    • Lisa says

      Hi Diana:

      I had a VAD and three strokes. I retired shortly afterwards and now it is just over 2 years when the strokes happened. I really miss going to work. I was a teacher. Most of my socialising was at work. I very much miss that and being productive. I would not listen to the doctors. Why wouldn’t it heal? It may take longer than the average. But if you are kind to your neck there is no reason why it won’t heal in the long-run. Just stay in there and try to forget about it while being kind to your neck. If there is one thing that I have learned through all this is to never listen to the doctors because they don’t know what they are saying. Most of them have never heard of a VAD and even if they have they don’t know about the healing process. Doctors told me I would always have double vision and not be able to walk after 6 months. Here I am every day making massive improvements. According to them I should not even be alive but I survived the strokes. As I said, just hang in there and stop worrying if you are about your neck. I am just kind to mine and never think of it. Lisa

  8. Rose says

    Hello, if this is still an active thread, I would really like to talk with some folks who have lived with VAD for over 8 months. How they live their lives . I have retuned to a mostly active life. However, compared to the person I was, its not the same. I was wondering dose it ever go completey away?

    • Dana S says

      It has been seven months since my stroke. My daily activities are back to normal but I still live in a constant state of dizziness and being off-balance. I hope I continue to get better especially as I get closer to the one year mark.

    • Mary says

      Rose, You are not alone in your wondering if you will some day be your old self. I am 6 months from my episode and I wonder as well. I can see great progress and have just planned a trip on my own for a couple of days in June, but I tire easily and my right arm, hand, numbness on right side of face, and right shoulder at times seem worse and then at other times better. Handwriting is a painful chore. Consequently I type messages whenever I can. When I ask doctors about the outlook for complete recovery the reply is universal – that everyone is different and that over time the brain will find a way to compensate if we are patient and do exercises that stimulate the process. I would like to know if you, or anyone on this forum have numbness around the mouth and if you have experienced itching around the base of the nose? I was told recently by an experienced, older doctor that that symptom is not uncommon pre and post stroke. Please keep asking questions as I think it helps us all. Having a stroke is such a lonely and unknown event. It helps to know that others are making the same journey.

      • Lisa says


        I am amost two years out from a right side VAD and a basilar artery clot and 2 bleeding strokes, one small one in my cerebellum and one small one in my brain stem. I, too, have slight numbness on the right side of my body. I spent three months in hospital and one month after that for surgery for ovarian cancer. After that I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy.

        All I can say is that you will slowly heal but it does take time as it it has with me. I am much better than I was this time last year. Try not to think about it and avoid straining your neck. Make sure you drink plenty of water!

    • Rose says

      Thank you! This helps knowing others are out there. At first I thought I was never going to be able to workout, drive, walk right again. Then things started to turn on like light switches. Dizzyness was an a big issue. Though now it’s less and less, lasts only A moment. Pain in the neck was contant at first and now when I over do it. Though I keep I little pain but I can deal, though I can’t run like I did before with out creating migraines. I hope that goes away soon. I have done a lot of reading and it seems that this happens to some active people . I wonder if it’s common ? Thanks for everything! I wish you all the best at every stage ! And I walk a lot . It helps me feel better. I can’t say my neurologist was amazing . Did anyone have issues with doctors and the subject?

    • Sandy says

      I am 14 months out since my VAD with a TIA. An MRI at 5 months showed that I was healed. I am back to being active , working 40 plus hours a week, but I am still not as I was before. I still have slight headaches almost daily but learn to live with it. Sometimes I feel like my right eye is droopy but it isn’t. I also have occasional dizziness. My neurologist does not understand why I still feel like this. The only medicine I take is a baby aspirin. I walk daily. I used to lift weights , but no more. I don’t want to do anything that would cause strain to my neck as many have had VAD from lifting weights and doing cross fit. So I just relax, not get too stressed and enjoy life.

    • Rose says

      Sandy, thank you,! yes aspirin and walking.!Though I do lift some weights with my neck supported and not heavy, just repetition.

      Mary, my nose dose not go numb but my bottom lip has little to no feeling. Could have always been that way . I think the hardest part is my co workers no understanding . I was back at work within 10 days though I could barly walk .

      Recently, I have been putting myself in situations that make me dizzy. During occupational therapy I learned that I was avoiding situations that were uncomfortable and therefore not progressing. This is something that was discussed however , I may have taken it a little further than I should. My head thanks me’s..

      Everyone is saying….Double vision yes , so I went from 20 20 with a slight stigmatism some not great vision.
      Wondering if that’ll go back or if this is permanent?


  9. Joe says

    Hi All,
    first of all apologizes for my English, I’ll try to be clear.
    I have suffered a double diseccion. carotid and verterbral. Both on the left side.
    I had an accident skiing , but not too serious. I felt nothing after.
    A week after that I had the wortst headache of my life in my neck. Several days after I was working with my PC and I suddenly turned my head and at that moment the ictus appeared. I felt very dizzy and couldn’t see. My eyes were like dancing.
    After two weeks at hospital now I’m at home with warfarin, and in two months A MRI will be done to confirm that the tears are healing properly.
    I love skiing and riding my dirty bike, I would like to know if I will practice these sports. How is life after arterial dissection? I’m 42 y.o and I have a lot of things to do yet.
    Thanks all for this website

    • wlt says

      Hi joe. I am looking forward to hearing the replies. I am in a similar situation and keen to return to all different types of activities.
      I have a friend who knows someone who has had cad and they after year went back to boxing ?? Sorry can’t be more hepful

      • Peter says

        From all accounts, once the dissection has healed there is very little chance of a reoccurrence. After a rest period of 3 months, then a follow up after another 3, a CT scan confirmed my arteries appear normal. I have been riding a road bike (bicycle) for months following at high intensity / heart rate and have had no further issues.

    • Joe says

      Hi Peter, Hi Wtt,
      Thanks for your posts. I’m glad to know that I will continue with sports
      When the neurologist told me I had dissections, I felt the only one who had suffered this ever, I feel better to hear from others like me.
      I’ll post any news from my doctors , I hope this could help .
      Thanks for this blogg

    • Joe says

      Hi, D morris,
      The first days after my stroke I realised my reading wasn’t as fast as usual, but after a week I can read properly.

  10. Kelly I says

    Hello everyone. The comments are encouraging and comforting. Thank you for posting. I was in an MVA a few weeks ago and was diagnosed with a Right VAD. I’m on aspirin, plavix and Lipitor. Sounds like from the post, this usually takes 3-6 months to heal. I do have a lot of neck pain mainly all on the right side of my neck but I can’t tell if it’s from the whip lash or dissection. Also, I was wondering if anyone had any ideas at night sleeping? It’s been really hard sleeping because of the pressure when I lay down. I’ve been trying to elevate my upper body more to sleep. Any suggestion? Any tips on natural healing or helping with the healing process? Thank you so much for reading.

    • wlt says

      I am now four weeks post spontaneous bilateral carotid dissection’s, thankful no stroke despite initial symptoms, previously fit and healthy. I am currently recovering at home, plan to return to work soon, I am on warfarin, heparin and regular paracetamol and stronger pain killers when required. I have started to increase my activity however continue to have continuous headaches, neck pain, eye pain and painful scalp on my left side the intensity varies. After discussion with my doctor and reading this site I am now aware this is something to expect and that it will take its own time to get better which in a strange way is reassuring. Has anyone had a bilateral dissection ? Is the recovery time still the same ? I am assuming so !! any help greatly appreciated and thanks for your posts been really informative.

      • Claire says

        Hey, I had a bilateral carotid artery dissection 5 years ago with no stroke. I made a good recovery with only occasional migraines. If took about a year to feel normal again. I have just had a left VAD (again with no stroke) despite the chance of recurrence being 1% meaning I only have one route to the brain being intact. To be honest I feel like a ticking time bomb, I was 30 when I had my first dissection.

  11. Renee S. says

    Hello everyone! I suffered a VAD and stroke back in Oct of 2014. I was 37 years old at the time. My main lingering symptoms are dizziness, loss of balance, and double vision. I have done OT, PT, Vestibular Therapy, and starting Vision Therapy next week. I truly feel as though I’m doing worse since Christmastime. Could that be possible? I have returned to work part-time but need to figure out when I can go back full time. Most people I have talked to say that it could take up to three years to get back to normal…I’m not sure what will help me most…more time for rest and recovery or trying to jump back into my old schedule. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • LS says

      Dear Renee:

      I think if you can work up to full-time then that is better than sitting at home like I do exercising. I had really bad double vision, which lasted for 3 months at least. Now I have it in one corner of my right eye when I turn my head. I also had a right VAD. Shortly after the strokes I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I had deep vein thrombosis. I had surgery for cancer followed by chemotherapy. So far things are fine but I find the rehab very slow despite doing exercises every day for almost two years. Thankfully, through all this I had no pain or nauseous. I think you have to be patient; if you can work–work is a good rehabilitor and will help you get your mind off things. Hopefully, as you work you will get better and better until you can go full-time. I wish the best for you and wish I had the options to go back to work soon.

    • Peter says

      The dissection (tear) commonly heals itself in around 6 weeks, which is common recovery time for vascular recovery, and also the usual advised recovery time for most surgeries.

      • Kathy says

        In my case, I found the coumadin that was prescribed for me in the hospital inhibited my bodies natural healing process. Once I got off the pharma and on a good nutrition/supplement program, I healed in 6-8 weeks.

    • bob hirsch says

      Just came from the neurologist. He reviewed the MRA again and MRI.
      There are no signs of stroke . Good thing-right? He said (several times) that I should not attempt to get the tear repaired. In fact he stressed that procedure is rarely if ever done unless it causes serious trouble ( strokes) due to the level of difficulty and high risk/low reward in my case.
      His opinion” leave it alone and stay calm ” I’m Sicilian-is he kidding? stay calm-really ?.

      • Peter says

        Hi Bob,

        Yep, that’s what is recommended along with anti stroke meds like plavix (clopidogrel is the active ingredient) and aspirin. I found the mental side of it more difficult than the physical, trying to stay calm and positive – I also think worrying and consciously/subconsciously limiting neck movements etc makes you stiffen up causing more pain and discomfort. I detailed my experience in earlier posts if you are interested.

      • bob hirsch says

        Peter-you hit the nail dead on , thanks man. 8 weeks ago I incorporated one simple 2 word tactic when things / people get annoying—walk away.
        God Bless

  12. Niels says

    Hi all,

    It has been a little over 6 months now since my dissection and all though it is a bumpy road I am recovering nicely. I am back to usual routines and able to lift weights again in the gym (70-80% of usual capacity). I still get headaches and neck pain but it is manageable. I seldom have to take any aspirin. Something I have noticed and wanted to ask you guys about is that when I get something innocent like a cold or flu like symptoms my neurological symptoms (headaches and neck pain) really worsen. Especially if I have to blow my nose a lot. It gets to the point where it is difficult for me to assess what is the cold and what is “post” dissection stuff. Is anybody else having this experience?

    • Sherrie says

      I am happy to hear that you are recovering nicely! I too have experienced worsening symptoms when fighting a cold. I recently had a lower respiratory infection and my neck pain was much worse. Whenever I swallowed, sneezed, or coughed my neck hurt so much.

      • Niels says

        Thanks Sherrie for your helpful comment. You know for men colds are “a real condition” as it is – lol- so having additional symptoms make me feel real sorry for my self!

        I am wishing you and everybody else here on the thread all the best and continued recovery.

        Niels in Copenhagen

    • Mary says

      I came down with a cold two days ago. It is the first since a VAD stroke almost 5 months ago and had a dizzy spell this morning, the first since the day the stroke occurred when I stayed dizzy for hours. So it seems that a cold has brought out my neurological symptoms as well. Otherwise, I’m doing about everything I did pre-stroke but I seem to take longer doing it and I still have numbness on my right side (foot, hand, face) which has diminished but still bothers me . Do others notice a slowing down?
      I like reading about the recovery journey of others because it is an isolating experience.

  13. bob hirsch says

    2 things-
    first -i have a vad but ,to my knowledge, have never had a stroke (67). is it possible?
    2nd-is it possible to post the recent comments first?

    • Peter says

      Hi Bob,

      Absolutely you can have a VAD and no stroke. I was one of those cases. The reason I was diagnosed was I had bad tension in my neck and trouble turning my head, accompanied by a dull constant headache in the back of the head. I also had visual disturbances on 2 occasions but an MRI showed no evidence of stroke damage.


    • says

      Bob –

      Thanks for coming here and sharing. And… I liked your idea of listing the newest comments first, so that is now the case! I never imagined that so many people would visit the post and comment like this, but I’m grateful people are connecting and sharing here like this.

      Be well.


  14. Mary says

    Hi everyone, It has been exactly 4 months since I experienced a VAD. The overwhelming fatigue I have had is just now finally diminishing. (I have slept enough in the last 4 months to rival Rip Van Winkle.) I even have bursts of energy from time to time along with waking up with a resolve to tackle this or that project. It’s as though I have moments of “awakening” of my old self. This is very encouraging to me because I have been going through the motions of life since the stroke without much enthusiasm. I mention this subtle breakthrough at 4 months as a way to encourage some of you who may have had the same post-stroke feeling of coping but not fully your old self. I am 76 and many of you are half that age, so if I am getting my old self (zest for life) back, imagine what you will do! I was recently inspired by the stroke story of Tedy Bruschi, player for the NE Patriots. Here is the link in case you want to read it.

  15. Jack says

    Hello again. I’m about 3 months past my VAD, no stroke (though I have had stroke like symptoms, arm weakness, etc). I’m getting out more than I did a couple months ago, but I expected to feel much better by now… However I still have consistent head pressure, occasional arm weakness and dizziness. Should I be concerned that symptoms have lingered this long?

    • Mary says

      Jack, Are those symptoms better than they were 3 months ago? If so, you are making progress. I find that my measurement of recovery requires looking where I was 4 months ago (rear view mirror) and realizing how much better I am. Fatigue and right-side numbness (especially facial), and a little spastic muscle activity in the upper arm and shoulder keep reminding me that I’ve had a stroke. But when I compare how I felt when I came home from the hospital 4 months ago, I’ve made incredible progress. You sound to me as though you are making a strong recovery, and letting more time pass will bring you back to feeling more like yourself.

  16. Bob Hirsch says

    Amazing stories folks-thanks
    I’m Bob -67 yr old male , controlled cholesterol with meds, heart stent (90%blockage) 1 bad lung-trauma, 2 bouts and victories with cancer and type 2 diabetes. I love water sports and sleeping.The price of a misspent youth( wrecks and bar fights).
    6 months ago the headaches started– noticeable, annoying, troublesome, recurrent–explosive
    .Each time the cause was environmental ( things or people-mostly people).
    Had a mria 3 days ago, result 80% blockage due to a v.a.d.. I’m setting up appointment with a vascular surgeon next week. Oh ,also-because of the heart stent I take Aspirin,Plavix ,Metoprolol already-probably why I still alive.
    Wife 3 kids,4 grand kids, grand kids have single mothers.
    Dam—I simply can’t die. Whoopee more stress.
    Thank You Lord

  17. Mary says

    I had a VAD mid October 2014. Will finally get a neurology work up in April at a place where I am also scheduled for LASER DOPPLER BIL TCP02 at that time. Has anyone had that test? At the 3 month point, I have just ceased Coumadin, and many of the post-stroke symptoms are either so much better or have disappeared. I have tackled the risk factors which may have contributed to the stroke and I am very encouraged.

  18. Sherrie says

    Is it normal to have severe headaches off and on? My neurologist said I should start seeing relief from headaches in a week or so but I’m still struggling some days with head and neck pain. My TIA was Christmas Eve so it’s not yet been a month. I feel like I’m receiving different information and opinions regarding the healing process.


    • Michele says

      Hi Sherrie
      I had my VAD in August and I am still getting headaches. I am on medication which does help how bad they are but still get them. Reading other people’s replies think that is quite common.

    • says

      Hi Sherrie,

      It seems like everyone recovers at different rates. For me, I had significant headaches daily for about a month after my VAD and stroke. But they went away. Sometimes I still have neck pain, but I’m unsure if it’s related to the dissection, if it’s something else (muscular), or if it’s just psychological.

      Hope the healing continues for you and you have a complete recovery soon!


    • Mary says

      You aren’t alone in getting mixed messages. It’s a medical no-man’s land where I live. Need to get where people really know their stuff. Will fly to a major medical center in April and get a handle on the reality of my condition. I couldn’t get any imaging done after having a VAD 3 months ago. My doctor said that no doctor in our region orders imaging to check on healing but assumes after 3 months of Coumadin that it has healed. I live in a rural state with low population and neurologists (especially ones who will see Medicare patients) are scarce as hen’s teeth. Looking forward to April!

      • Peter says

        Even in a capital city in Australia (Brisbane), imaging was not ordered for me until 6 months post diagnosis. As you say, doctors rationalize that regardless of the results of the 3 month scan (healed or not) the treatment is the same. Makes sense, but doesn’t let the patient know how they are progressing or help to lower the stress level you experience after a diagnosis like this. I have my follow up for my 6 month scan on Thursday and will post back here with the results.

        Stay positive all, try not to stress too much.

  19. Kerri says


    Don’t panic yet! It does take time for the dissection to heal, usually 3-6 months. I hit the three month mark in December but my dissection has not healed. I go back to the neurologist in February for my next follow up. Try to stay positive and rest when you can. What helps me is thinking about how sick I was when I was in the hospital and immediately following the dissection, and how far I’ve come now. I’m a different person. If you can look at it that way, then it is a lot easier to be patient and positive.

  20. Dana S says

    I suffered a stroke on Oct 4, 2014 due to a right vertebral artery dissection. I went to the ER with severe vertigo, vomiting, and double vision. At the 3 month mark, last week, I had a follow up CT Scan and it showed the VAD has not healed as expected. Anyone else know what implications this has? I am taking aspirin and Lipitor for stroke prevention. I go to my neurologist next week and am a little worried why it hasn’t healed yet.

    • Lisa says

      Please be patient as you are not far out from the dissection. As all these posts say it takes at least 6 months for the VAD to heal and that means shorter and longer time for many people. You should comfort yourself that it has not gotten worse. Be positive and make sure you drink plenty of water.

    • Dana S says

      Thank you! Do people have to wait to go back to work until the dissection heals? I am a teacher and have been off work since my stroke. Still struggling with balance and double vision. I drive only in areas I am familiar with. Turning my head makes me dizzy.

      • Kerri says


        Just read your response before my initial response and had to post again. I am also a teacher, and was told I needed to stay out for two months. Due to not having disability insurance and not having enough days, I made the choice to go back to work after only one week. There are times that it is tough, but in general, it was the best thing that I did! Being in a routine, surrounded by people who care about me, was far better then staying home alone. I guess it depends on what grade you teach. I teach middle school students, so they are older and require less from me physically. I also have phenomenal paras in my classroom who know the situation and keep a close eye on me.

      • Pat says

        As previously posted, my disection was July 11th. Thankfully no stroke or neurological effects. I still get pain and truthfully it does worry me. I had an MRO in December and everything looks good. I am hopeful I can fly in February. The neurologist said I was able to bit truthfully I am still nervous. Has anyone else felt this way. I am not a nervous person however this whole thing has put a scare into me. I know how very lucky I am to still be here. I am thankful everyday as things could have been much worse. I have a child with exceptionalities who has many health concerns so resting and a stress free life eludes me. I am wondering if any of you have been EDS? It is a connective tissue disorder? It was mentioned to me when I was in emergency. I have many of the symptoms and so does my daughter. We are going to be tested. I also had an ultrasound of my aeorta to ensure it was ok. Has anyone else been tested for that?

  21. Sherrie says

    Thank you! Reading you experience has given me some comfort. I work from home so that isn’t a huge issue but I am sad about not being able to do yoga. I was also looking forward to a vacation but looks like I may not be able to fly.

    I hope you continue to recover quickly.


  22. Sherrie says

    I am so happy to have found this blog. I am a 41 year old female. My VAD occurred on Dec.24, last week. I was sitting on my sofa watching tv and I felt a pop then an electric shock through my head. It felt like blood rushed from my head and I lost vision in my right eye briefly. This was followed by severe headache on the right side of my head. Four days later I was still experiencing headaches and went to the ER. The angiogram revealed a tear in my right carotid artery. My MRI didn’t show any damage to my brain. I was put on aspirin and told to limit my activity.

    It’s been 5 days since the ER and the right side of my neck hurts so badly that can’t turn my neck. I was back at the ER yesterday. They did scans again but didn’t see anything new. I’m terrified of this becoming worse because my pain is worse.

    I appreciate reading the experiences of others. If anyone has any advice I’d love to hear it.

    • Kerri says

      Hi Sherrie,

      I don’t usually post, but your experience was incredibly similar to mine. My VAD occurred in my left vertebral artery on September 11, 2014. I thought I slept wrong and pulled a muscle in my neck, to the point that my best friend was massaging it that whole day at work. September 13th I had the worst headache of my life, it felt like there were knives stabbing the back of my head. I spent 4 days in the hospital because I was a stroke and heart attack risk, all at 27 years old. When I was released, I was put on aspirin and told to limit my activity.

      Three days later I was back in the hospital because of incredible neck pain. The tear did not spread, it was simply part of the healing process. I was in the hospital for another day and given IV painkillers. A few days later, the pain finally went away. I returned to work (teaching middle school students) on September 22nd.

      I want to reassure you that the pain does go away and things do get easier. However, there are times that I still feel pain in that part of my neck, and that can be pretty scary. It does go away rather quickly, but it still freaks me out. I recently went back for my 3 month testing where the doctors found that my artery went from being 90 percent blocked to 70 percent blocked by a blood clot formed during the dissection. I have to continue to take it easy until we get to the 6th month mark.

      My best advice for you is to take it easy, but keep things as normal as possible. Originally, the doctors wanted me out of work for awhile. I would have gone crazy, so I opted to go back after just one week and it was the best thing I did. The routine gave me a reason to get up every morning. Also, this may sound petty and girly, but don’t go crazy if you gain weight. I was put on a medicine to open up my blood vessels and it made me gain 30 lbs in 3 months. As horrifying as that is, it did save my life. Keep things in perspective. It could have been a whole lot worse. Eventually you will feel normal again, but it will take time.

  23. says

    Hi Everyone,

    Thank you all for sharing your stories, for asking questions, and for providing answers based on your experiences. It’s amazing to see all the activity and genuine information here.

    It has been a little over three years since my VAD and stroke. I’m now only taking baby aspirin (81mg) and probably will for the rest of my life as a precaution. I occasionally feel a neck pain that seems like it could be related to the dissection, but I think it’s just a muscle pain or some “phantom” pain instead of anything real. I continue to have annual follow-ups with a neurologist, and the latest advice they’ve given me is to do whatever I want—no restrictions.

    In terms of flying, I was cleared to travel pretty quickly after the stroke by my doctors. I believe that was within a couple months. What they cautioned me about was anything non-commercial where pressures could change rapidly like skydiving and SCUBA diving.

    Hope you all have a great 2015 and for those that have recently had a dissection or stroke, my thoughts are with you for a speedy recovery.


    • anita says

      Robert thank you for your posts. It helped me. Im 40. I had dissection and mini stroke on dec 24. Im glad you feel good. It gives me hope for my recovery.
      Thank you again,

  24. Pat says

    So you had no issues with the pressure? Also were you able to get travel insurance? My family doctor told me that a VAD is treated the same as a stroke, so no flying for a year. I have to be on plavix for a year. He just called me last week with MRI results. It is healed. The neurologist said flying should be ok. I am going to contact the specialist at the stroke clinic to get his input. The difference in opinions is making me nervous and I am not usually a nervous person. I still get pain in my neck, that is why the follow up MRI was ordered. Does anyone else experience this?

    • Sandy says

      I was on Coumadin for 4 months. Now I am on a baby aspirin for life. I saw a vascular neurologist who at 5 months told me it was safe to fly since my artery was healed. I live in Rhode Island and flew to South Carolina . Then 2 months later I flew to Florida. Last month I flew across the country to California. No issues with airplane pressure. I have daily head pain & pressure but everything felt the same after flying.

    • Michele lee says

      I did not feel any problems with pressure I have to say and it was along haul flight for us to the USA. I was just told not to do that blowing through your nose while holding your nose to equalise the pressure in the ears so I wore the travel ear plugs which seemed to work. I had to pay an extra £100 for my insurance but that is covering me for a year and I am flying back to the States later this month which they have covered me for. Hope that helps

      • Pat says

        Thank you for the information. How long did you wait to fly? I have insurance through my credit card however my doctor said it may not cover me now that I have had a VAD. I am wondering if I should speak to my travel agent and then the insurance.

      • Michele says

        I waited 3 months from the VAD to travel and told my insurance company (it is through my bank) 3 weeks before I was leaving once I had the OK from the consultant. They asked me what medication I was on and some medical things such as what symptoms I still had ( told them about the headaches and hoarse voice from the vocal cord palsy) and that my consultant had said it was OK to fly – they were really mainly concerned to see if there was any other physical difficulties such as stroke and how much physical damage there was but as I have full use of my l imbs they seemed fine by that. Hope that helps. Good luck

  25. Pat says

    Happy New Year to all of you. I had my VAD in July. I just had a follow up MRI and things look good. I still get headaches at times and neck pain once in awhile. I was wondering if any of you have been cleared to fly? I am concerned because I do swell with flying. Wondering if my travel insurance will aprove me?

    • Sandy says

      I had my VAD in March. My MRI 5 months later showed that it had healed. I flew right after that. I have since flown a few times with no problems. I still have daily head pain from my VAD.

      • Michele says

        Hi. Happy New year! I had my VAD in August and after my review MRI in October which showed it had healed 50% I was allowed to fly I was on anticoagulant therapy still( now on platelet therapy) Im still having a few problems so having SALT to help with the vocal cord palsy and doing Pilates to help with the balance. Headaches still present some of the time. Take care all

  26. Mary says

    In January I will be faced with making a decision of continuing Coumadin or replacing it with aspirin. My VAD occurred mid-October, 2014. Whether to stay on it for 3 months or 6 months after the VAD event isn’t clear to me. If any of you have an opinion on this, I would appreciate it.

    • Kathy says

      My VAD was in April. By September, after my 3rd MRI and it showed the vertebral artery was still not canalized back to more than 30% flow, my neurologist said I still needed blood thinning. But, if you refer to the Physicians Desk Reference for Coumadin, it clearly states that Coumadin does not heal ischemic tissue damage, which is what I needed. So, I sought out a more alternative doctor and he put me on a regimen of enzymes, probiotics, chelation, minerals, anti-oxidents and a whole food diet. It took 3 weeks to step down off the Coumadin. But, once I got my system cleaned out, my progress has been phenomenal. I believe the Coumadin was good while I was still in the early stages of healing, but later on, it inhibited my healing and I needed to take things that would support my bodies natural ability to heal. Be honest with yourself and pursue the course you need. There are many ways to heal the body. Many blessings to you, Mary. I hope your recovery is quick.

  27. Niels says

    Hi all.

    Since I was here last I have been reading just about everything available about Vertebral artery dissection, VAD with mini-strokes, strokes etc. including many testimonies. I am encouraged by this.


    When the initial danger (1-2 weeks) is over then the recovery will set in general set in. The arteries heals themselves in 3-6 months in the majority of cases which CT or MRI scans will detect and functions can be regained. In my case the CT scan looks fine with no VAD showing (4 months in). Sleep is important and lots of it. Healthy diet. Mindfulness and self-compassion is helpful especially if you have anxiety- and depression symptoms. Let your body know that you intent to use it. All of it functions. Exercise and listen to the body and breathe. Then rest again.

    Of course we are all different but when I read about the advice given by various neurologists to their patients about the recovery process I find them very unclear. They are ranging from very conservative “don’t do any neck movements at all more or less forever” to “there is minimal risk so you can do whatever you want”. I wish to be about what I value and not about what I fear. So I have started cadio 3 times a week. I do get headaches. I hope they will pass because they are painful and scary. Perhaps it will be like a broken bone that has healed but does not feel the same. When I am 6 months post-VAD I will assess again and return to resistance/weight training and some cross fit . I will be aware to avoid neck movement/rolls simultaneous with weight/pressure/resistance.

    My dietitian has put me on a supplement Proanthocyanidins sometimes called OPCs, an abbreviation for oligomeric procyanidins, or PCOs. Proanthocyanidins are found in most plants and thus are a part of the human diet. They can be found in large quantities in grape seeds and skin, hence in red wine and grape seed extract, in cocoa, nuts, apples and all Prunus fruits (most concentrated in the skin) and in the bark of Cinnamomum (cinnamon) and Pinus pinaster (formerly known as Pinus maritima). It can also be found in berries like blueberry and cranberry (notably procyanidin A2) and fruits from wild shrubs such as chokeberry,hawthorn, rosehip and sea buckthorn. PCOs seems to help in stroke prevention by increasing red blood cell pliability, decreasing blood viscosity and increasing fibrinolytic activity. PCOs improve blood vessel wall elasticity and lower blood pressure . PCOs help to stabilize the blood-brain barrier. By combating atherosclerosis and hypertension, PCOs could provide additional protection against stroke. Grape seed proanthocyanidins confer more protection against lipid peroxidation that do vitamin C, vitamin E or beta-carotene.
    As always – please do not start supplements of any kind before checking with your GP and make sure that they do not interact badly with the medicine you may be already on.

    Remember you are not alone. Someone else is having this too.

    Wishing all a speedy and safe recovery.

  28. Mary says

    I had a VAD 2 1/2 months ago. Right side feels numb, especially right side of face and right foot. Right foot is very cold much of the time. My right arm and right leg have muscles which feel sore, as though injured. I would like to know from others’ experiences during recovery how long the numbness (and muscle soreness) lasts?

    • Sam says

      hi Mary. I had dissected carotid artery. Two weeks later I had stroke. This happened August 2014, 4 months ago. I too have numb left side from head to toe. Sorry to say no relief and no prospect in short term. Doc says tingling sensation is good sign coz sensation is returning. I wish made me happy! I was offered amitripoline (sorry about spelling)and another similar drug. They weren’t much help sorry.
      Regards. Sam.

      • Mary says

        Thanks, Sam. I have trouble being patient. I have been told that eventually the body heals itself in many, many ways but it takes time.

        All the best to you,


      • Shannon says

        Hi Mary,
        I had a VAD and stroke about 15 months ago. I’ve been on Lyrica since the for the nerve damage and it has been a great help.aybe that could help with the tingling and numbness? It’s actually a fibromyalgia medicine. I still have muscle pain but it’s still getting continuously better. Stay positive :). I hope that helps!

    • Ksenia says

      Hi Mary,

      I had a VAD about 2 months ago and my right side is tingly from top to bottom, with my leg being the most sensitive. It’s uncomfortable and some days I’d worse than others. My doctor put me on gapapentin to relieve some of the tingle. It helps to a certain degree. I wonder when will this feeling start to fade? Have your symptoms subsided? I also have occasional head pain and anxiety.

      – Ksenia

      • Mary says


        It has been almost 8 months since I experienced the stroke and my right side is still not back to normal. My shoulder has remained slightly “frozen”, the tingling/numbness in right arm, right foot, and right side of mouth is always present, and I have developed intermittent pain in my hip. You would not know if you met me that I have had a stroke, and although it is a daily struggle, I am taking this episode as a challenge to work through and continue doing the projects I need to do . Don’t put up with anxiety. Spend some time with “hope and help for your Nerves.” It is a book that has been around for years and its advice will take care of your anxiety. You’ll recover in time. Keep working on whatever your symptoms are. Keep in touch. It’s lonely business, recovering from a stroke! That’s why it is so reassuring to read about others who are making the same journey.

  29. Allison says

    I’m a 33 year old woman who had a left VAD between the C1-C4 along with three Mini strokes. Cause of the dissection was a ride on splash mountain at Disney world in May 2014. I’ve just been told I can go off the blood thinners and my dissection is almost gone.! My Neurologist has no concerns there will be a full recovery of the dissection, however has referred me to a vascular surgeon for early January. Has anyone else been asked to see vascular dr after ? Just unsure as to why I need to go if the VAD is almost healed.

  30. Sarah Young says

    Think the severe dizziness was about a month and then gradually improved. Its almost 7 years on and now I only get dizzy when really tired or getting off trains and buses. They explained to me that the part of my brain that controls balance was damaged by the stroke and other parts of the brain took on the role as I recovered. Don’t think your son had a stroke so hopefully will recover faster than I did. Also my right foot felt very cold etc but suddenly got better a few months ago! Things continue to improve. Best wishes for the holidays.

  31. Sarah Young says

    Monica, sounds like your son is going through the same as I did, I walked a few steps after 10 days but my balance was very bad. I went home after 2 weeks when I could manage stairs but was readmitted when a MRI showed something of concern, that turned out to be nothing. It is amazing how rest will help his recovery, and patience. I did Pilates to help my balance, it does still cause problems when I am tired but mainly I am fine.

    • Monica says

      Thanks for your response Sarah, how long did the dizziness remain? I am frustrated with his doctor and the neurosurgeon, both giving limited information regarding recovery. They simply repeat he is lucky to be alive. It is helpful for me to connect with folks who have suffered a VAD, helping me in my support of him through his healing journey. Best wishes for this festive season. Monica

  32. Monica says

    Reading your blog and the many folks that have shared their trauma and recovery has given me hope for a full recovery for my son, age 36 years. He suffered a VAD on December 8th and has been in the hospital since. He is continues to suffer from a chronic headache, blurred vision, poor sensation on the left side (always feels cold on the left side), pain in the left arm and leg, and cannot walk do to poor equilibrium. Having said all this, he is improving, but the ability to walk more than a couple of shaking steps has not. I am going a bit crazy with the number of different drugs that are being administered as I am not sure the medical doctor knows what to do. I have read all the postings carefully, but cannot find anything specific to rehab and the possible length of stay. This causes him additional sadness as his daughters are 2.5 years and 2 months and he wants to be home with them. I greatly appreciate that you’ve created this blog. thanks so much, monica

  33. Kathy says

    I was diagnosed with a VAD in April, after having numbness, balance and walking problems. On the MRI they were never able to actually see the dissection. All that was seen was the thrombosis and the aneurysm. This could be because of a few things. One, the outer wall of the artery did not tear, only the inner layers. This would cause pooling of blood in that location and would cause thrombosis to accumulate, the artery develops stenosis, blood flow stops and the symptoms noted above would occur. Two, the thrombosis was called “age-indeterminate”. This means the tear could have occurred long ago, or was many small tears over time. This could mean the outer wall tore sometime ago and the dissection would no longer show up on an image because it has healed, leaving only the thrombosis and aneurysm to be seen.
    My thrombosis lingered for 6 months, the neuro wanted me to stay on Coumadin, but I knew it was inhibiting my ability to heal. So, I sought out a naturo-chiropractor (I know, I know, the evil chiropractor). He was very aware of VADs because he has to know how to avoid giving one to a patient. He put me on a 60-day diet and supplement program that has really gotten me back to full health. If anyone is interested in learning of this, I highly recommend it.
    I’ve just this week started doing yoga again. I did a downward dog!! Moving forward thanks to enzymes.

  34. Niels says

    Hi All.
    Thank you all for this blog.
    I had a dissection (no stroke) in august while cross fit training. I had a server headache in the back of my head. Had no other symptoms so just when home thinking it would pass. The headache and head pain continued and when I saw a doctor he recommended that I see a manual therapist. I saw a chiropractor the next couple of months which of course was not helping me. In november I saw a neurologist who was convinced that it was dissection and was CT scanned 3 months after the incident. The result is that the dissection is no longer showing as it has probably healed in the meantime. It all looks fine on the scan. I take no medicine apart from aspirin now and then. My problem is still headache /-pain and occasional a bit of neck pain. These symptoms worsen when I train/exercise especially the day after. I am not worried that I will have another dissection but I bothered by the headache and wonder if it will pass at some stage? It has now been 4,5 month. I still insist on training even with the pain. If anybody have any knowledge about headaches in the aftermath of dissection or have a similar experience regarding would you please post. Thanks in advance.

    • Jack says

      From the information I’ve gathered from my Neurologist and a VAD support group I’m in, raising your blood pressure up too high while you have a dissection can further damage the artery. So it’s better to layoff the cardio at first. And my Neurologist also said not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.

      However my dissection happened only about two months and half ago. It sounds like you’re much farther along. However I’d still be cautious if you still have symptoms. I’ve been told when I do start exercising again to start slow, not get my heart rate up too high, and to start with like an elliptical or stationary bike, which is much smoother. And if I have any symptomatic setbacks to scale it back, but if I feel OK to gradually increase it. But baby steps are the key.

      • Niels says

        Hi Jack.
        Thanks for posting.
        As I write I am not “having a dissection” as the CT scan is not showing any dissected artery now 4,5 months after my incident. This is why I am cleared for training. As I understand it the arteries normally heal by themselves in 3-6 months in most cases. However many patients still rapport headpain/-aches in the (previous) affected area for even longer time even sometimes years after. If anybody has this experience I would like to hear about it – also if activity/sport has worsen their symptoms? Thanks in advance. I am wishing all a speedy recovery.

      • Lisa says

        Hi Niels:

        That is great news on the recovery.

        I am 1 year and 18 months out of a cerebellum and brain stem bleed and I also had a clot on my basil artery. I also had a VAD on the right which was probably caused by the clot in the basilar artery. My problem is walking and my balance, which are getting better but not fully recovered. If you have any hints to recovery I will be very grateful. I work out in the gym 3 times a week and do physio exercises every day. I swim 3 times a week. Thanks, lisa

      • Michele says

        Hi all,
        Great to hear that you are all making great progress. I had a VAD and brain stem stroke in August and still having slight problems with balance, voice and tremor in left arm. My artery has still only healed by 50%. I am seeing a SALT and doing pilates which is greatly helping. I am a physio so have been doing my own exercise programme too – I would suggest for those of you who have been saying balance is a problem that pilates or seeing a physio might be beneficial – at least asking their advice as to whether they feel they can help.
        Happy Christmas and New Year to you all – keep posting as it is so great and reassuring to see how people are progressing and doing so well!

      • Michele says

        Sorry me again! Just thought that some of you may not know what SALT stands for – it stands for speech and language therapist!

  35. Fidel T says

    Dear Friends, I had a VAD in march 2013, and It has totally resolved now. part of my right cerebellum was affected and my balance was the only thing affected. I had problems mentioning my balance and he more activities I did the sober I recovered. I am perfectly normal and I am playing soccer with no balance issues. I started playing soccer one month after my stroke and I had difficulty with balance in the beginning . I was told than in 6 month you may not even realize that you have had a VAD. Now I play soccer or ride my motorcycle perfectly without any balance issue. However there is one problem that I hope someone can help me with. I am a practicing dentists and when i bend my head to the right to look in the patient’s mouth, I experience a brief moment of incoordination when I lift my head. The problem is that I am afraid that when I get older I will have balance issues. It is so minor that no one but me can notice this. How can I get my coordination back 100 percent??. I believe that My balance and coordination is 93-94 percent of what it should be and it is the only thing in life that I wasn’t to get back now.

    Hope you all continue to enjoy good health

  36. kelly says

    Thanks guys.i took a week off work and went back as I could feel myself sinking into depression.i think it’s the best thing for me to take my mind off neck still aches and feel full of pain just tension.6 months can’t come quick enough for me to have another mri.although my neurologist has said mri will always show a trauma even if it’s still getting headaches and am bruising so easy with the asprin.

  37. Jack says

    Have (did) any of you exercised during your recovery? I was running a lot before the dissection. But since it I haven’t done anything, and don’t really want to be totally inactive through the entire recovery period.

    Is it safe to do some light cardio? Jogging, or maybe the stationary bike? And when is it safe to do so?

    • Sandy says

      Hi all,
      Just wanted to give an update as I think it would help all the new people in their recovery. I had a VAD on March 1 with no stroke. Prior to this I was healthy 50 year old who had a VAD from extended my hair back in the sink at a hair salon. Won’t be doing that ever again.. Now I lean forward over the sink. It has been 9 months now. The first 4 months I had bad headaches along with head pressure , cloudy, foggy, and dizziness . Was treated with Coumadin and aspirin. Took nothing for the pain except tylenol. I did nothing for 3 months but rest, needed to sleep propped up with 2 pillows. I just walked around the block twice a day. I wasn’t allowed to go on a 3 hr car ride until 2 months. At 3 months I started a 2 mile walk daily at a slow pace. Finally at 5 months went back to work even though I had daily headaches and pressure but nothing like the first 4 months. Would take either Tylenol, Motrin or Fiorcet. Now at 9 months I still have daily headaches. It’s my new norm. I only take an occasional Tylenol,or Motrin. I try to get plenty of sleep and keep myself hydrated. I walk 2 miles daily now at a quick pace if weather permits or ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes. I m very careful with my neck. Still get nervous with any pain or any weird sensation in my neck. . Would love to lift weights again and do Pilates but it’s too risky as it affects the neck. I’m just grateful everyday now and try not to get stressed out.

  38. Jack says

    What meds are you (or did you) taking for headache or head pressure? My symptoms are more pressure in my head and dizziness. My Neurologist gave me Amitriptyline but it made me more dizzy. Then I tried Nortriptyline but had trouble sleeping on it. Now she wants me to try Depakote. But after reading the side effects, I’m scared to take it.

    What’s worked best for you all?

    • Michele says

      Hi. I am on Amitriptyline and Lamotrigine. I have just started reducing the lamotrigine as it was reducing my cognitive function (memory and word retrieval) as the consultant felt it was more the medication making it poor rather than the stroke. I was initially put on another drug but the side effects seemed dreadful when I read them and the Lamotrigine did not appear as bad. I certainly seem better and the medication appears to be working as it does stop the migraine/headache pain but I still get numbness of the left side of the face and shaking arm at times which is thought to be part of the migraine rather than the stroke. Hope that helps.

    • Shannon says

      I am 14 months post vad and stroke and I’ve been on Lyrica for the past year. Very few side effects, one of which has been weight gain. I can’t say appreciate that but can deal with it. :)
      I don’t know if it works for everyone but it really diminished the nerve pain for me. All other pain seems to be muscular for me because I am still so guarded, but not taking meds for that piece.

      • Jack says

        So Shannon… You still have symptoms 14 months later? Have they subsided at all, and if so how quickly did you start feeling better? I was just diagnosed a couple weeks ago, so I’m anxious to start getting better.

      • Shannon says

        Hi Jack,
        Sorry if i worried you. It sounds like, from most posts, the pain doesn’t stick around this long.
        I do still have it, but my neuro thinks most is muscular. I tried a few times in the last 6 months to wean myself off of the lyrica but after about 2.5 wks I’d feel the pain in the back of my head and over my ear again ao I went back on. The pain isn’t unbearable but psychologically I kept thinking it was happening all over again so the stress wasn’t worth it. Since lyrica isn’t habit forming and fibromyalgia patients stay on for years, my doc said to stop pushing it until I can get off of it with no pain.
        I hope that helps!

  39. kelly says

    I’m a 33 year old female who had a tia 2 weeks ago.i had been suffering neck pain to the point I couldn’t move my neck.went to my gp who didn’t even look at my neck just assumed it was a pulled muscle.i did have 1 major headache which was all in the back of my head with vomiting.3 weeks later I had the tia.i lost all movement in my right side including speech.headache and horrendous screeching.when I 1st got to a&e they treated me for a a&e I had severe vomiting n sweating along with the stroke symptoms. The day after I had severe vertigo and sickness and couldn’t lift my head.after a mri I was told I had twisted the artery in the back of my neck causing it to be inflamed.resulting I’m blood not passing through just clotting n breaking off.ive been told 3 to 6 months healing time and in meantime I’m on asprin to thin the absolutely petrified of it happening again or even suffering a full blown afraid to lift my 2 year old or even and again I still get slight numbness in my arm.but no other effects from the tia just anxiety n tiredness.

    • Jack says

      So sorry to hear about your situation Kelly. I know it’s scary. I’m currently recovering from VAD, and I can testify that the anxiety makes the experience many times worse. All I can recommend is to take hope that it WILL get better with time… The experiences on this site are a testimony to that. Find ways to take your mind off of it, and try to stay positive. Sometimes that’s impossible to do, but when I am able to do it, I feel a million times better.

    • Sarah Young says

      Very similar to my experience, mine was a full stroke. As already said, it takes time and will get better altho I must admit the odd worry does still pop into my head 6 years on. I’ve had 2 babies since the stroke
      and have just started playing netball which makes me feel great. And last week I suddenly got sensation back in my foot that I lost due to stroke! Please rest, relax, enjoy your 2 year old, and things will get better.

    • Michele says

      You sound you are making good progress. I had mine in August and like you they thought it was just migraines and took several days to realise it was a VAD. I am still getting tired easily and my GP has said that she would think that will remain for a few more months. I think everyone is anxious after which is only to be expected. I am still on medication for the migraines which I still have especially when I am tired and then my speech becomes very husky and I have word retrieval problems. I guess it depends if you had a stroke and what part of the brain was affected. everyone seems to have had something slightly different. Good luck, take it easy and rest and enjoy your little one

  40. Jack says

    Hello everyone,

    It is great to hear everyone’s success stories. I was diagnosed with VAD (no stroke) just yesterday, after weeks of head pressure and dizziness. Now I am taking Plavix and Aspirin and taking it easy.

    Question: How long did it take your symptoms to subside? And how long did a full recovery take?

    • Peter says

      For me (see my earlier posts) it took a couple of weeks – a lot of it I think was psychological; It was hard to relax my neck muscles and start to turn my head normally again. I still took it very easy and didn’t push it too much until 6 weeks (the normal healing time for most parts of the vascular system within the body, 6 weeks is also used as a general healing time for surgery too). I did find that wearing a soft neck brace helped me relax and stopped the pain – that might be worth a shot.

    • Jack says

      Thanks Peter! I think a lot of my symptoms are psychological too, as I’ve been pretty anxious about all of this.

      This probably a dumb question, but is there any hard laying on the back of my neck or head, since I understand that’s where the dissection is, and therefore doing so would be putting pressure on it? What other precautions did you take?

      • Peter says

        I know exactly what you mean, every twinge, headache or hint of any pins and needles or numbness starts to freak you out. I couldn’t say for certain what would be likely to cause more harm but can only speak from my experience; the vertebral arteries actually run up inside your cervical (neck) bones – see – so they are mostly protected from any pressure on your neck from the outside (unlike your carotid arteries in the front of your neck for example, which are exposed and at the front). Personally I would try and avoid anything that would result in any major neck movements, try and reduce sudden movement, and definitely avoid hyperextension (moving past a comfortable range). This is what I did and gradually began to relax more as time went on. After 3 months I resumed all normal activities.

        Do you have any suggestion or any events that are thought to have caused the VAD initially?

      • Jack says

        We don’t know for sure, but a little 2 and a half months ago I started seeing a chiropractor (including neck adjustments), and developed a bad cough where I was coughing pretty hard to get mucous up. We suspect either or both of those were the cause.

        Another strange symptom is that I’ve been losing weight unintentionally the last couple weeks. DR’s couldn’t find anything to cause that, so it may just be due to anxiety and not feeling well. Any idea if that’s a symptom of VAD?

  41. Dana Roscoe says

    I’m a 44 yr old wife and mother to 2 sets of twin boys. Just within this past year i completely changed my workout and training routine adding crossfit and running and i really felt i was just about getting into the best shape of my life. I knew i was pretty hard on my body, got some pain in my jaw kind of by my ear. Thought from all the recent running i was ” out of wack” and even thought i really dislike them, i figured quickest fix………cervical adjustment. 10 seconds after my adjustment its like a gun went off in my head. Its black. I collapse. Im in pain. Sweating. When i could see the floor was shuffling. it was so scary i remember thinking ” is this what dieing is?” When the chiro got me off the floor it was like i was drunk? Hungover? In severe slow motion!? All of the above. He kept saying i was stressed and it was my sugar. After a half hour i knew i wasnt right so i said call my husband. He got me, we went to med express, they said you have vertigo even after all i told them. Went home and slept! A LOT!!!!! headaches. Went to family doc 4 days later. She did tests. Ordered MRI mentioned the word stroke. 3 days later before scheduled MRI my dad took me to ER. Had ct. They see dissection and spot on cerebellum. I’m being transported and hour and a half away to a vascular and neuro surgeon. Had a VAD. And stroke. Praise god no stint. End of long story. This happened on Aug 21. It’s now Nov 9. I go back for 3 month check up at end of the month. Im on a restricted lifestyle. Nothing that elevates my heartrate. It’s extremely frustrating but praise got its only temporary. I was completely fine until my adjustment!?!?!?!? Anyone ever hear of this? they say a 6 mos recovery. Trying not to live in panic mode but somedays it’s a challenge. Having neck pains and a loopy feeling on top of fatigue! But bigger picture……im alive and thankful!

  42. Sarah Young says

    Just to say it’s good to see lots of positive stories here. I had a VAD and stroke 6 years ago, no specific cause identified. I returned to work after 5 months and since had 2 children, and am about to start playing netball again.

  43. Kathy says

    I had a unilateral VAD on April 10, 2014. I have had two follow-up MRI/MRAs and they show continued reduction of blood flow in the right vertebral artery. I have been on Coumadin since the event and now want to switch over to nattokinase. Does anyone have any experience with this, both in terms of how they switched without complications and if they had improvement in arterial function on nattokinase?
    There is no solid research to show efficacy in either Coumadin or nattokinase for VADs.

  44. says

    I am a 45 year old healthy women. I had a left sided VAD about one week after my husband and children and I had visited Six Flags in Chicago. I felt tired after the roller coaster ride and an odd sense of smell inside my sinus area, although not until the next night. The week after we got home and got up that morning to get our children ready for school, I had a weird brown spot move accross my vision on the left side. When I proceeded to walk, my body was being forced to the right and was extremely dizzy. My husband thought just I was tired, I began to pray Gods Word over my self. I knew something was very wrong. I started throwing up violently and it persisted. I started to see white dots everywhere and was becoming severly dehidrated. We finally called and ambulance and the vomiting persisted and I could not physically get my body off of the floor.

    The ambulance took me to the nearest hospital. The admittance secretary and the nurse that was assigned to me, couldn’t have been more…..uncaring and unconcerned. After being there for six hours and one CT scan, the doctor on staff attributed my sickness to vertigo. I was sent home w, an anti nauseau medicine and a vertigo drug. I was able to rest that night.

    The next morning before I opened my eyes, I got a strange sensation of a black sphere type zooming into my head. I opened my eyes and tried to hold myself up with my hands/arms. I was strongly pulled down onto the bed on my left side. I started throwing up violently again side ways, not having the ability to lift my head off of the bed. As I looked up the ceiling was on the floor, the room was scanning and not in correct position. My husband grabbed a cold cloth to put around my neck. He encouraged me to calm down, and that it would pass. After all I had medicine and had already been diagnosed with vertigo. (Incorrectly) After two full days of this, I could no longer sustain. That Sunday night, I called an ENT that my sister had recommended and she was amazing. Stated this does not sound like vertigo. Set up an appointment in her office the next day. After testing, she got very serious, which totally took me aback. She had me admitted immediatley. Her reasoning was my left eye was not tracking, AT ALL. She set up an MRI. After results, she stated she truly thought it was a brain tumor, or MS.

    My husband had asked her if I had had a minor stroke. She said that there was nothing minor about it. I had a major stroke, and that I was one heart beat away from death. After the Cardioligist, Vascular Surgeon and Neurologist did the exams, they found it to be a VAD. They attribute it to roller coaster ride at Six Flags. They also stated that what ever stopped the blood from clotting, took care of itself at home. Hallelujah! I know my God and my faith in His Word!

    It has been about seven weeks. I still have therapy twice a week. As well I see an optomitrist for the palsy on the sixth nerve in my left eye. I know I will come into complete healing. It will just take time.

    Thank you for bringing in the importance for an MRA. I have not been advised of this, but will be asking for it.

    The doctor care I received at the other hospital was amazing. I will always be greatful to those professionals that let their human compassion flow through.

    I have heard on numerous occasions that excercise after is very beneficial. I will definately head this advice. As well as choose Life!

    Blessings to you all! Thank you for sharing your heart and benefits of wisdom and action to a healthy long life after VAD.

  45. Kerri says

    I just suffered a VAD this past Saturday and am now home from the hospital recovering. I have a 90% blockage in the vertebral artery which may need a stent. I am 27 years old, a special ed teacher, and currently on medical leave which I heal from this.

    For anyone that has had a VAD, how do you cope with the residual neck pain? Almost a week later, I still feel like I can barely move my neck. I would appreciate any advice on what to do in the immediate aftermath of a VAD.

    • Peter says

      Hi Kerri,

      I had neck pain reducing my range of motion to barely 45 degrees in the week before I was diagnosed, this subsided after a week or so. I wore a soft neck brace for a few days to allow my neck muscles to relax – them cramping up was causing most of the pain, which I believe may be a natural reaction by the body to restrict movement and promote healing. It took a while to convince myself to relax and start to move my neck normally again, so probably very much a mental thing as well as physical.

      Are you on medication to avoid clots? I had a reasonable restriction in one of my arteries and a small one in the other – I have a follow up on the 2nd Oct, after which I will update my original post to this blog

      • Michele says

        Yes I also had neck pain before the diagnosis and it resolved after about 10 days to 2 weeks. I have to say I was quite wary of moving my neck for a while in case I did more damage. However, I seem to be able to move it quite well now. My consultant didnt want me to drive for 4 weeks because of the turning of the head and risk of an accident causing a whiplash. i am also not allowed to swim until the MRI scan shows its healing due to the flexion and extension movements of the neck. I am having my follow up scan next week and am hoping that it shows it is healing. I however, still get migraines but not sure if that is due to the fact that I have had to run around alot and have a lot of stress at the moment as unfortunately my father died last week. I will let you know my results – fingers crossed the VAD is healing!

    • Kathy says

      I have had neck tension and pain for years. I have relieved it with sometimes aggressive massage, chiropractic, yoga and stretching with varying results. Now that I have a VAD, possibly caused by one/some of treatments, I have had to, at least, interrupt and in some cases, eliminate every one of these treatments. While I was still unable to do any of them, I turned to acupuncture, that I was, thankfully, able to get through my HMO plan, but only for 12 treatments. It has been so perfect for the “VAD recovery” level of activity that I was at for 8 months, that now that I am able to do more of these other ones again, I am going to definitely find an alternative acupuncture place and continue with it even though I have to pay out-of-pocket. It felt really nice the way the needles would clear the pain and would last for days.

  46. Naomi says

    Cheers Cassie – I saw that you had written that you had been cleared for all activity which is great news. Did your neurologist clear you immediately or after a few weeks/months? I’ve been out walking and I don’t feel sick, just a bit nervous because of the visual defect. Don’t know how running will be though… My mum has ripped up the race number for the half marathon I was supposed to be doing tomorrow so I won’t be tempted! Working out on a treadmill sounds like a good idea, maybe safer than going out on the roads at the moment. Hope it goes well for you and your dizziness improves. Thanks for your message, Nx

    • Cassie says

      Naomi – sorry for the late reply. My neurologist cleared me pretty much as soon as I left the hospital. (I was there for four days.) I then met with him about a week and a half after that. Interested in how you feel when you start jogging! For me and how my stroke affected me it just seems like a lot of retraining, so I think I just have to do it and the awkwardness/sick feeling will start to go away. I’m sure you’ll be back out there jogging soon!

  47. Naomi says

    Thanks Michele. I guess I will just take it easy, and maybe do some exercises like you. It’s so frustrating! However, I do realise how lucky I am to be in a position where I want to go for a run already. I spent a day on a stroke ward where I was the only person who could wash and feed myself – that really put things into perspective for me… Hope your next scan goes well and you can get back to your swimming soon.

  48. Naomi says

    Hi all,

    Great site and glad to see that most people are recovering well. I was diagnosed with a left VAD last Thursday. We are attributing it to a whiplash injury from cliff diving about three weeks ago.

    The night before the major event I woke up with left sided neck pain and had to take a painkiller, but I had had mild neck pain for about a fortnight. The next day I went to the hairdresser and as I stood up to leave I felt very light headed and nearly fell over. I felt very disorientated and then when I went to pay, I realised I couldn’t see the card machine in my left periphery. Over the next hour I developed numbness in the left side of my face and my left arm felt a bit clumsy.

    I am medical so I actually guessed I had dissected. I went to A&E and they did a CT which ruled out a bleed and showed a stroke in my temporal lobe. The MRI confirmed a left VAD the next day. I have been started on high dose aspirin for six months.

    I still have a patch missing in my peripheral vision and my face is numb, but luckily nothing else seems affected. I do have a pulling sensation over my left neck which I attribute to the dissection. They have no plans for a follow up scan at the moment.

    When did you guys get back to exercise? I was supposed to be doing a half marathon next week and in October, but I think they are off the cards but was wondering when people began jogging again? As I am not getting another scan I’m not sure how to risk assess it!

    • Michele says

      Hi Naomi
      I had my VAD 5 weeks ago and I have been told that the only exercise I can do is walking until my next MRI to show that the artery is healing. I have been told to do a little more each day which I have been doing and am now up to 2 miles.
      I do leg exercises with 1KG weight in lying just to maintain strength in my legs as I have had lots of orthopaedic ops on my knees for recurrent dislocation. My left arm and leg were affected initially although the strength has returned . I am a physio so I have to practice what I preach! I am not a runner but I normally swim 3 -4 times a week so cant wait to get back to that!
      Hope that helps. all the best Michele

    • Cassie says

      Hi Naomi. I had my VAD and two strokes mid July, and my neuro cleared me for all activity as I feel comfortable. (I am also just on high does aspirin.) I’m feeling kind of the same though, and I would love to start jogging as well. I just had a baby, and it’s how I’ve always gotten back to a healthy weight (and good stress relief) :) When I jog (chasing after my kids) in short spans I start to feel really dizzy. Even walking fast with my husband through the store or something is not the easiest. I have been planning on starting some fast uphill walking workouts on the treadmill this week and see how it goes. I feel like it will just take getting used to, so I just need to do it. I would imagine with your lack in peripheral vision it might be hard not to feel sick when running? Hope you feel more like your self soon and can get back to running! (My husband is doing a 1/2 marathon tomorrow! :))

  49. Bob says

    Wow, what an amazing read !
    I’m 36 and healthy but had a vad 5 days ago during a game of cricket. So far I have most of my physical skills back but am suffering from head/neck aches and am very lathargic. It’s great to read so many positive recovery stories as I’m very worried about the future!
    I hope hope the headaches go soon and that I can resume a normal life.



  50. Michele lee says

    August 20. 2014
    Firstly can I say as others have done how brilliant and comforting it is to read everyone’s stories. My own story started back in July while in holiday and I went snorkelling. I became very sea sick for 45 minutes and then had pain in my neck and headache. As I have had alot of neck problems in the past and had 2 discs fused, I thought it was related to that. I then went away again to take my son to tenerife as he was working there and then went back to work On The first day back the headache became unbearable, my speech slurred and I went to casualty. They did MRIs but the VAD was missed. I was sent home being told it was a bad bout if migraines. The pain didn’t improve, i started having symptoms in my left arm abd leg and it was only after my husband asked for the scans to be re checked a week later that it was found. I was rushed then to hospital and put on heparin. I am now on rivaroxban one of the newer types of anti coagulants as well as anti migraine tablets and pain killers. I was discharged from hospital 10 days ago. The function on my left side has refurned to normal and headaches have improved but come back if I do too much or get tired. I then become light headed too and my voice becomes husky and quiet. i also have problems still with word retrieval. I am nowTaking small walks as instructed by my neurologist but l am not sure how much to push myself or do or if I will cause further damage. I try and rest as soon as I get tired or the headaches return but I can’t seem to find a time to stop before that happens. I seem to have good snd bad days My next scan is in 5 weeks and I just hope like others that it will show healing of the vertebral artery. Thank you so much to everyone who has written as it really is great to know you are not alone.

  51. Emily Mason says

    I cannot tell you how happy I am to find this site. I have been struggling with fear and anxiety, and my husband can only understand to a point having never been through this himself. I am 29 years old and was diagnosed with VAD on 7/11/14.

    I gave birth to our second child, a baby girl, on 6/3/14. Since the delivery, I was suffering from headaches (and I never got headaches before). The headaches kept getting worse. Eventually no mediciation could ease the pain, and I was unable to sleep (which is even more exhausting when you have a newborn!).

    I decided to go to the ER; they diagnosed a tension headache and sent me home with a muscle relaxer and pain medicine. The following morning after taking the muscle relaxer, I had a severe reaction and was taken back to the ER by ambulance. This time they did an MRI which came back clear. The ER doctor said he’d never seen a reaction like this to a medicine (I couldn’t open my eyes, my face was numb, I couldn’t move, I vomited twice, etc. I don’t remember most of this. Once I started to come back around, my one eye would not move with the other. Some doctors believe this was a small stroke, others don’t believe I had a stroke). They sent me home again with a different medication. That evening my eyes started to act up again (convienently at the same time I’m on the phone with my family doctor) so she told me to go straight back to the ER. The doctor was going to send me home AGAIN, but this time a neurologist told him I was not to leave and they would do more tests on me the following morning. That neurologist saved my life.

    He ran an MRA & MRV, and then a CT scan and found a VAD in both arteries. I spent the next 5 days in the ICU unable to see either of my children. I am nursing my daughter so I had to get rid of the milk for 2 weeks because of the medication (but luckily am back to nursing now). It was terrifying thinking of them growing up without me and my husband being left a single parent.

    I am now on Warfarin and still having a lot of trouble getting my dosage. I’ve been getting my blood drawn every day (which is no small task because I have incredibly small veins, so each time is torture for me). I rarely have headaches anymore. My head gets tingly every now & then, and my eyes were very sore for a while (but now I only have vision trouble every now & then). I get dizzy when I look far to each side, or when I stand too quickly from laying down or sitting. I am not allowed to carry anything heavy (including my 2 year old). Every little change in my body triggers panic and I’m afraid I will live in fear forever.

    Thanks to everyone for your stories – it really has helped me to not feel so alone!

    • Cassie says

      I’m so sorry for what you are going through. I am glad to see you decided to leave your story here though. It’s encouraging (in some way) to see someone who is going through something so similar to what I am. Our stories match up so closely. My daughter was born on 6/18/14 and I went in to the ER on 7/16/14.
      I can’t imagine how hard it is to have to have your blood drawn every day and not to be able to lift your little one! I feel like my doctor is just kind of letting me go with one aspirin a day and I can do whatever as long as I feel comfortable. I guess maybe it’s because I already had strokes? And in you (and others I read) they are avoiding you having a stroke? I don’t know. It’s all confusing. :)
      Hope you feel better soon and can enjoy your little ones!

    • Emily Mason says

      Hi Cassie – I did notice how closely our stories match! It is comforting to know I’m not alone with a newborn at home while dealing with this. I am on the bloodthinners so I don’t have a stroke. I have another scan at the end of the month to see how it’s progressing. Do you have any scans in the near future? It’s incredibly confusing. The waiting is the hardest part for me – not knowing if it will have improved any by my next scan. It certainly does help me appreciate being awake for a 3am feeding though!!

    • Cassie says

      Hi, Emily. Sorry I didn’t reply earlier. I do have a scan coming up in December. My neurologist will do a MRA to see if it has healed at all. Did you have your scan this month yet? Hoping they see improvement for you. I have a bad headache today (which is what led me to get on here and start reading dissection stories again. :)). If you ever want to email me (just to talk to someone dealing with similar issues – I know it can be encouraging.) my email is cckifamily at gmail dot com. Take care!

  52. Cassie says

    Excited to find this site and read about a lot of other people’s experiences. I am 32 years old and went to the ER 3 weeks ago. I was diagnosed with a VAD and had 2 strokes. My symptoms were some bad headaches for a week or so, which I shook off as dehydration or not eating well, and then I had loud ringing in my ears one night for about 5 minutes. This led to extreme vertigo and my right side became very impaired leading to extreme nausea when I tried to move.
    All my doctors were great though, and I was diagnosed quickly and treated with Heparin while in the hospital. My lasting effects were lack of balance and coordination on my right side. I have improved so quickly though! It seems surreal that I needed help walking less then 3 weeks ago. I have 4 kids 5 and under (included a baby who just turned 4 weeks while I was at the hospital), so we spent 2 weeks at my in laws while I got stronger, so they could help with the kids. I still stumble a bit when not focusing and have a bit of pain in my neck where the dissection is. I have a few other small side affects, and I do have a bit of speech slurring or stuttering when talking fast or can’t find the right word. But really can not complain at all! I am so blessed my strokes only went to my cerebellum.
    Anyway all this to say my neurologist cleared me for all activity! The two things he said anything about was to come see him if I were to get pregnant again and not to go lifting over 100 lbs. Reading all your stories and what your doctors say I’m wondering if I should be more careful though? My main question though is I’m trying to figure out when it is safe to drive. I know it is probably different for everyone. My right leg is still a bit off, so that is my biggest hesitation and when I focus I don’t “tip” but when I’m distracted or tired it starts to happen.
    Thanks again for all your stories! Oh and I see some of you are on stronger blood thinners. My neurologist put me on one aspirin a day – I believe 320 but said I could switch to a baby aspirin whenever.

  53. Vicki S says

    I’m 33 and week post dx of VAD. I drove myself to ER after experiencing partial blindness in left eye. Prior to ER I had seen pcp for terrible headaches. I was never one to have headaches so decided to go in. Initially prescribed muscle relaxer and aleve. Headaches came and went but wasn’t going to mess with vision changes. MRI results showed dissection and stroke signs. Tough pill to swallow in that of itself but then being told I’m being admitted to ICU was like a bad dream. I’ve never been in the hospital. My closest family is hours away and don’t wanted to worry them as my dad wss having his own medical procedure. I’m an independent person and at that moment I felt defeated. When the doc told me the dissection is a result of trauma or manipulation to the neck all I could think about was the 12 prior chiro adjustments I underwent less than 2 weeks before my headaches started. Obviously the neurologist couldn’t confirm or deny but it sure makes me think. Especially after reading others’ experiences. How do we or can we make the chiro aware of what happened? I had no other rapid head movement or injury. Also was first experience with chiro. Just makes me think?? I had the golden tx of heparin, lovenox, and warfarin. I experience no lingering effects one week post physically. But I do continue to have persistent headaches that worry me and tylenol and gabapentin aren’t touching it. After reading these posts I’m hopeful the pain will resolve along with the dissection. My INR is almost 2. I have been walking and trying to get back in routine. Although the neurologist says there is less than 5% chance of reoccurrence I still like many of you are scared. It’s been a life changer. Thanks for sharing. I don’t feel alone in all this.

  54. SJ says

    Hi All
    I thought I would give a quick update 6 months down the track from my VAD (original post below).
    My balance came back very quickly and i have not noticed any problems with it.
    My right side has gradually retained the ability to feel heat/cold/pain and I would say maybe 75% of that feeling is back (if i transfer a cold glass of water from left hand to right hand I can feel that it is cold but it feels colder in left hand!)
    I was hoping that all would be back to 100% in 6 months but I guess not.
    Other notable changes post VAD include sleeping way more soundly, no headaches at all, constipation (aspirin related?) and bizarrely, I think i have done some serious damage to my right knee when i couldn’t feel any pain!
    Anyway, I would welcome any feedback from those who may have had similar experiences in recovery and I wish everyone well as they move down the recovery path.

    Hi All
    just came across this site and have taken lots of comfort from reading the comments. I am 46 and had my VAD and stroke one week ago. Similar to others not diagnosed correct following CT scan but finally got there with MRI. symptoms included loss of balance and veering to left and loss of pain/heat/cold sensation down right side of body. One week in am already getting sensation back in right arm and balance is better. in fact quite a remarkable change in a week.
    Reading all the comments gives me hope for the future – all the best. SJ Vancouver


    • says

      Hi SJ!

      Thanks for returning with your update. For six months into recovery after having some significant effects, I’m impressed with your report. Remember, though, I’m not a medical professional. Please keep that in mind!

      I can’t really provide any feedback on your disconnect between levels of feeling from side-to-side, but it certainly makes sense. Having the headaches gone is great news, though, and is similar to what I experienced. I rarely get headaches now. When I do, it’s often from either dehydration or sinus-related. There have been no major headaches like when my VAD and stroke occurred and the weeks directly after (thankfully).

      I hope you continue to improve and the feeling balances out on both sides. Please do keep me (and everyone else here) informed. I’m cheering everyone on. :)


    • Sam says

      Hello everybody. I am now 53 had vad almost 3 months ago (middle august) following 2-3 weeks of headache diagnosed by two GPs and out of hours doc as neuralgea. Oh I’m in Ireland so not familiar with all your lingo. So that was early symptoms, Then partner and I decided a night in Dublin would be good. So I packed my stuff plus nuralex anti inflammatary and cocodomol painkiller as prescribed and headed off for a night of eating drinking and merriment all to excess. ok yes drinking was off the menu As turns out no drink was required as I staggered my way down Grafton street dropping what was in my hands and generally feeling in a bad way. Back to Hotel could not sleep for headache. Didnt take cocodomol but by chance had aspirin which I took instead. No idea why, was like instinctive. And thankfully self medicating Next day packed up for home, two hours drive. Walked into a lamppost on my left on way to car. I slept nearly all journey but I was highly aware of my left hand which was numb but tingly and felt was double size!! So went to emergency department who after a catalog of errors and arguments where my partner pointed neurological symptoms and sending me home again finally three days later gave me MRI and discovered ‘symptoms of stroke’ Whaaa? what do you mean symptoms? Did or didnt have? So you are all warned. This is the real Great British national health service. Three weeks after first symptoms at last some medical intervention. Clexane or heparin you call it.

      So if you are reading this I tell you it is a medicine to put it to page. So how am I after 3 months.. Headaches eased to a 1 or 2, I have itchy scalp, (I don’t think is animals) left arm and hand a bit numb and feels like insects crawling inside, cant figure hot or cold, short memory affected, dissorientation, constant tired, insomnia plus crazy dreams at night. I could go on!!but is now 2-30 am. So thats my story and still in progress. back to work? I dont know when or if. Feel like been told to lie down and get up when you feel better. when? whenever. Thank god for patient loved ones. Get well soon everybody.. Regards Sam

  55. Lise says

    Hi All:

    Thank you all for so many uplifting comments. I had a basilar bleed with clot last year on 27/03/2013. I had a stroke which was massive. I also was diagnosed with diabetes 2. After I spent 3 months in rehab I was shipped to the acute care hospital for a month. During this time I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I had surgery just slightly after I was sent there for suspected deep vein thrombosis. When I was in the rehab hospital I was on a maintenance dose of heparin and Plavix. After I had the deep vein thrombosis (I was diagnosed with a huge clot in my left leg and two smaller ones in my right. The stroke left me with the ability to talk but since the bleeding was in my basal ganglia I could not walk on my left side. I left the hospital in a wheelchair but now I can walk unaided in the house. When the stroke happened I had serious double vision. I had a feeding tube in and later graduated for a week to soft foods. After that I could eat whatever I want. The double vision went away after 3 months. Now I only have it in my right eye in the corner when I turn my head. I had a catheter in for 3 months. I think the hardest thing to deal with was the negative talk by the doctors. If any are listening: be careful what you say! I was reduced to tears at times from all the negative talk. I still get nervous and depressed about all that has happened. I lost my job and my ability to move around. A recent scan of my legs showed that only the right leg has a tiny clot left. But the blood clot damaged a vein in my left leg. Recently, after a year of heparin injections I am wearing compression socks and taking Plavix. I don’t know what caused the dissection but probably the chiro treatment I had a couple of months before and a traumatic fall from a ladder, coupled with diabetes and slightly elevated blood pressure (which I have been treated for all along) or the slightly high cholesterol which I have also been treated for were the cause. All I know is that it has just been over a year and 4 month and I am still not back to walking normally like I did. Thanks for Listening.

    • says

      Hi Lise,

      Wow! You’ve been through a lot, so thank you for sharing your story here. I hope you continue to recover and are able to share updates here periodically.

      All my best to you,

    • Lise says

      Thanks Mike

      I intend to recover fully and will let you know when I recover. I forgot to say that through this so far I was never in pain and so far, too, have no nauseous or dizziness. Thanks Again, Lise

  56. Denise says

    Oh my. I so wish I had found this site three months ago. I would not have felt so alone. Apparently CAD and VAD are rare enough that you become a bit of a curiosity to a local, small town health community. It does create a feeling of isolation. All of your stories resonate so strongly and parallel my own experience in so many ways. And I thought I was young at 60 to have this happen…..amazed how young so many of you are!
    We were traveling in March when I developed strong allergy symptoms to something that caused a violent cough that over the counter meds did not control well. We kept traveling; I kept coughing. When we got home, the cough subsided somewhat and seemed manageable. I went to a regularly scheduled chiropractor visit (go every 4 to 8 weeks for the past 15 years to manage degenerative discs in my neck which can cause extreme pain in my right arm) and kept going on with life and kept coughing. Another week passed and had extreme pain around my right ear in the jaw area. Thought TMJ and headed back to chiropractor. Extreme pain moved to dull ache which over the following days traveled into my face in the sinus area and, I thought, made my right eye look funny over the weekend. Since I was still coughing, I thought “Aha. A sinus infection” and trotted off to the doctors on Monday. On Saturday had noticed that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I was eating tasted odd and chocolate on Sunday tasted like dirt which seemed very strange. Saw a PA in a different practice who said ‘sinus infection’ and prescribed 2 weeks of antibiotic and cough medicine with codeine. He thought my eye was sinus related and looked at me like I was nuts when I said that sweet things tasted funny.
    On Tuesday and Wednesday, the eye worried me. I drove my husband crazy and he told me to go back to my own doctor. Got an appointment for late Thursday with the PA in my doctor’s practice. She scared me to death when she looked at me and said I had Horner’s Syndrome….drooping eye lid and different pupil size. …and that this was a symptom of something else. She called the ER who told her to walk me over—their office next to hospital. Even being fast tracked it was hours until a CT scan with imaging and then a wait for it to be read. I knew I was in trouble when the ER doc and three nurses came into our cubicle and closed the curtain. The doc explained that I had coronary artery dissections on both sides with the right side worse and that I should be very thankful the PA had recognized what it was (she later got flowers, believe me). Another nurse was rushing in to add massive doses of heparin to my IV while he was talking. They asked me where I wanted to be transferred to and that they had an ambulance waiting….this was at about 2am. They helped me choose a hospital and before I knew it I was getting a kiss from my husband and wheeled out to an ambulance for the 1 1/2 hour ride to the city. Kept telling myself it must not be that bad because I wasn’t in a helicopter. Think I was in shock because I wasn’t crying.
    At the next ER, a team of neurologists was waiting. They all stood around my bed asking questions and making me go through all of the stroke drills over and over. When I didn’t show up with any stroke symptoms, half the group left and the rest drifted away ( I guess I got boring) as they felt I was stabilized. Told myself I must be OK if they left me all alone! The next day an MRI showed no stroke…yippee….and three days later I left the hospital with Coumadin and a new skill set, giving myself Lovenox shots in the stomach. They told me to take it easy so I cut my normal schedule back about half way—–and to take Tylenol for pain. They didn’t say how much pain… times my teeth felt like they were dancing in my jaw on the right side. Tylenol did not touch it.
    Exactly one week later my doctor’s office called with my first INR results and I told them how much pain I was in and where it was……the doc on duty said ‘back to the ER’. The ER doc talked to my city neurologist who said ‘another CT scan and any change, ship her back’. Felt like a ‘hot potato’—-they couldn’t wait to get me off on another ambulance ride….then 5 days in-patient….lots more heparin….did say that the ‘change’ wasn’t a worsening…..Neurontin for the pain which has been a lifesaver. Said it was better for this nerve pain than an opiate. Two months on the couch…being frightened but so grateful to be home….telling myself how lucky I was that it wasn’t a brain tumor and there hadn’t been a stroke.
    At two months the CT scan showed healing going well—major relief. Moved from Coumadin to aspirin shortly after. At three months feeling better but still tired, still some pain if I overdue. Slowly getting back to work but will not ever be at the same pace. This is going to take more time than I thought. Looking for my new normal. Praying that my neck and back behave because I won’t be going back to the chiropractor in this lifetime.
    Sorry I wrote so much. I think you are all incredibly brave. This journey is hard but it could be so much worse in so many ways. Thank you all for being there. I don’t feel so alone anymore!

  57. Peter says

    Hi All,

    Just wanted to share my story so far also – I’m a lean, fit 31 year old male from Brisbane, Australia with no previous health issues.

    On 10th June 2014 I suffered central vision ‘blind spot’ type symptoms for 45min or so following a particularly intensive cycling commute and sitting down at my desk. This eventually stopped and I then had colours / distortions around my periphery for the next 2.5 hours or so I went to eye casualty at the hospital I work at just in case – all visual checks came back clear, as well as stroke checks that were performed (my vision had cleared by the time I was seen). It was suggested it was possibly a migraine, but to check back in if symptoms reoccurred for an MRI. I didn’t think much of it but following this I had neck stiffness and pain as well as a dull headache at the rear of my head – also pain across my left trap muscle when turning my head right. Initially I put it down to after effects of the ‘migraine’. I went to a Physio on the 18th for a massage, which involved some deep tissue massage around my back mostly and a little around my neck, no neck adjustment fortunately. This loosened up my back and made it clearer that I had neck pain remaining. On the 21st I was laying on a hammock at home with my head resting on the left ‘tensioned’ side, playing with my phone when I again had a visual disturbance (slight central vision blind spot again, then colours around the periphery). I had my wife take me to the local hospital around midday, by the time we had done the ~15min drive symptoms had disappeared. Triage suspected possibly a migraine, but I waited for several hours and eventually was given an optic exam again, plus stroke checks and an ECG. All these were normal so a CTA was ordered. Turns out I had vertebral artery narrowing / abnormality in my left artery from C6-C2, and C3-C4 in my right.

    I was immediately put on observation, given 4 x 75mg Plavix (clopidogrel) and 300mg Asprin, plus an antacid (pantoprazole).

    Thankfully I have not had a stroke, but am fearful – taking things a day at a time, I am feeling better as time goes on. I am on 75mg clopidogrel and 100mg asprin daily, plus 40mh pantoprazole. Still awaiting a specialist appointment which I have been referred, albeit chasing it up a couple of times.

    The most likely reason for this initially occurring seems to be a cycling accident on my commute on the 12th May – I ‘tram lined’ along the edge of a footpath avoiding roadworks and lost control, my face hitting the deck on an angle – I wasn’t going terribly fast but was using strapped pedals and couldn’t get out of them in time. I didn’t have any memorable neck pain up until post 10th June headache which almost seems like a long shot but who knows. Following this headache (and previous to) I did 10 high intensity 45km round trip work commutes, which are quite jarring at speed as the bike is very rigid, as well as due to the positioning on the bike looking up and back down is at a difficult angle and a frequently repeated movement. I also did some self massage / back adjustment rolling on a ball up and down my spine / neck – so these could have aggravated it further.

    Thanks to Robert for creating this place we can all share our experiences, and to others for posting. All the best to everyone – I will update with my progress.

    • Peter says

      I had a follow-up with a Neuro Doctor at PA Hospital on the 2nd October, and was advised to discontinue Clopidogrel (Plavix), but to continue taking 100mg Asprin for 12 months. I was advised I could return to exercising at a high intensity but to ease into it – I have been cycling to work again a couple of days a week. Scans were not ordered as the treatment would have been the same regardless of the findings, but I have a follow up for scans at 3 months following the appt. I have had no more symptoms thankfully.

  58. Chad says

    First of all let me say that I love this blog! I was diagnosed with a left CAD on May 23, 2014. I had been experiencing headaches and eye pain for about a week before it got so bad that I went to the emergency department. previously I went to a clinic and was diagnosed with a sinus infection. During my visit to the ED they gave me some pain meds and ordered a CTA scan. Since it was the middle of the night, they sent the results to be read by an outside radiologist. They said the results were normal and sent me home. In the morning an in-house radiologist re-read the results and discovered the dissection. I was home sleeping and the hospital couldn’t get a hold of me so they sent the police to pick me up. Talk about freaking me out!!

    I was lucky because I have no evidence of a stroke, although the Dr. said one was inevitable if I hadn’t come to the ED. I was admitted for 5 days and was treated with heparin/coumadin. I’m still on coumadin and have a follow up CTA scan in August. I still have some headaches, tinnitus, and pupil differences, but feel much better.

    The Dr.’s were not able to pinpoint the cause of my dissection, but said it was probably due to years of high blood pressure. I’m on 3 new meds for my blood pressure to get it under control. For those reading this blog please stress to others to listen to their bodies and also understand that high blood pressure is serious and needs to be treated.

  59. Shannon says

    Hi everyone. I revisit this site every month or so to see what everyone is going through. In Sept ’13, at 32, I had a left VAD and stroke after an emergency appendectomy surgery. Nurses think the intubation from the surgery is probably what caused my dissection but no one knows for sure. I was on coumadin for 3 months, now on baby aspirin and lyrica (for the nerve damage/pain). I still have pain in my head and neck, even though it’s been 8+ months. Wondering if anyone else has pain still? It’s keeps me from getting back into a regular exercise routine and I still get anxious pretty often. Plus, I just want to get off the lyrica! So glad you all made it through and wish you all the best (and no recurrences!)!!

    • Brandy says

      Shannon, I am not sure if it is normal, but my VAD was in December 2012 and I still occasionally feel pain around the same location. I seem to notice it more when I am stressed or if I have recently thought about my VAD experience. My neurologist seemed to think that this was normal, but it still scare the hell out of me when it happens.

  60. says

    This is an amazing blog. It’s funny how you never think you will do something until you actually do it – like post a comment on a blog. However, I was diagnosed with CAD last week and was compelled to share my story by reading the many helpful comments posted on this blog.

    The symptoms started about 4 weeks ago with the sudden lost of taste, neck pains, headaches, and tightness in my face. I was a track & field athlete in high school and college thus I never encountered any pain that couldn’t be alleviated with a pill. So I attributed my symptoms to a possible sinus infection and purchased a box of Advil Cold and Sinus and called it day – I knew it would run its course. I felt a little better over the next few weeks but my taste never returned and the headaches and neck pain lingered. One day last week I was awaken by a splitting headache at 3am which of course I ran for the Advil Cold and Sinus box as I thought it was time for another dosage. At 10am I still had the headache and I scheduled an appointment with a neurologist at the suggestion of my mother-in-law (an RN for about 50 yrs).

    The Doc ordered an MRI of my Brain, Neck, and Spine; and an MRA of my Brain and Neck based on the MRI results. The MRA confirmed the CAD of the right artery. The Doc placed me on a Plavix and aspirin (325) regimen for the next six months and has restricted me from any heavy physical activity for this period. He ordered MRI/MRAs in 3 months to check the progress of the artery.

    Here are some important pieces of information I would like to past along: 1) The Doc said that I was a few days away from having a stroke if I didn’t come in for the MRI/MRA – so make sure to listen to your bodies and see the doc if you have the above prolonged symptoms; 2) The Doc said that CAD is very rare. He wasn’t looking for it when he ordered the MRI and my primary care physician probably would have diagnosed it as a sinus infection, gave me a Z pack and sent me home – so make sure to see a neurologist and request an MRI/MRA; 3) The Doc said that the CAD could have been caused by blunt trauma to my neck prior to the onset of the symptoms. Prior to the CAD I was seeing a personal trainer once a week that would put me through several sets of rigorous workouts including giant tire flips, rope pulls, kettle-bell presses, etc. It was shortly after one of these workouts that the CAD symptoms began to set in – so go easy on yourself in the gym and be sure that your personal trainers can demonstrate proper techniques for strenuous exercises to avoid tearing or rupturing anything; 4) I felt angry and depressed when I first discovered that I could have been the cause of my own injury by pushing myself so hard at the gym. I have always been a good athlete and taught the more I pushed the better the result – “no pain no gain”. Well the reality is, I just turned 45 on June 1 and I am not that young crazed athlete anymore that could jump off a building, land on 2 feet, and run 10 miles home. No, I am that 45 yr old athlete with a different body that requires a different type of training. In fact, at my age “pain equals no gain”, and the more I push the worse the results could be. With that said, I am no longer angry and am embracing my new mind set about working out.

    Thanks for letting me tell my story, its part of my healing process. I look forward to returning to physical activity in 6 months (I am an avid golfer – 8 handicap), but for now I will take my docs orders and let the medicine and the LORD do their work!

    I hope this was helpful.

    PS – My wife locked my golf clubs up for the next six months – tough love!

  61. Dennis S says

    Great article and responses. I had my VAD on March 12, 2014 (40 year old male, non-smoker, fair shape) … Was at work twisted my head the wrong way and next thing you know I was dizzy, slightly slurred speech and “zips & zaps” in my right ear. I had no idea what was going on, just knew something was not right. Luckily we have nurses at work, they were not sure what it was, but called me an ambulance, and it wasn’t until I was in the ambulance explaining to the EMT what my symptoms were that he said it sounds like a stroke to him, he had me doing the finger to nose to his finger, rubbing heals to shins … I got to the ER and the gave me a clot busting injection, “zips & zaps” went away within a few minutes, speech was a little better, was no longer dizzy, just had a little bit of double vision. I was on Lovenox & coumadin for the first week after I got home and got my INR stabilized. I’m still on coumadin at least until the beginning of September when I have my next neurologist appointment. The biggest hurdle I’m still trying to get over is every time I have a slight headache or stiff neck I would feel horrible, so my doctor put me on some anxiety pills, the side effects I’ve had from them have been odd, main one that I went to the ER for was what I would say feels like hot flashes, felt like someone pouring warm water on my shoulders and it ran down to my knees and of course when that happens my heart rate would spike up … it would come and go in seconds. ER said it was most likely my anxiety pills, but ran an enzyme check to eliminate any heart issues, and all tests came back good. But I still can’t shake the feeling that it may happen again. Reading this post and responses has me feeling a little better, but maybe having another scan done that would show me that the VAD has healed may be my best medicine.

  62. B Baker says

    I had a VAD causing a stroke on April 25th, 2012. This was aggravated by the fact that I had a PFO which I was aware of, just not aware of the large size if the opening in the heart.
    I had broken my neck at some point in the past, (in my 20s, and I’m now 61) in the maturing and deformation of the vertebrae, the Vertebral artery had developed an extra loop that was / is in harms way. I had three previous strokes that were mistaken as decompression sickness while scuba diving.
    I hope some day to be able to go back to diving, maybe even teaching scuba again, however, even with the PFO repaired, I have been warned about pressure and neck position while diving. So I may have seen my last underwater adventure. (1012 dives, 765 hours under water)
    I am still on plavix, and probably always will be. That is a difficulty for me, as I’ve been an adrenaline freak since I was 13 years old.
    Good luck,

  63. nancy says

    Anyone else’s drs test or mention fibromuscular dyplasia a genetic artery disease as the possible cause of their vertabral artery dissection? when i was in the hospital they did an ultra sound on my kidneys and saw some evidence i may have this.
    seeing my nuerologist in seattle for the 1st time since i was released but this is going to take a while to unravel what caused my left vertabral dissection because of this.
    Curious if anyone else experienced this?

    • Sandy says

      Mine was caused from going to the hairdresser. Leaning my neck back in the sink. It has been 9 weeks for me. Still have headache. Some days are worse than others. Lots of pressure in my head. Get lightheaded a lot with activity. Not able to go back to work yet.

  64. Sandy says

    I suffered a right VAD on March 1. On Coumadin and baby Asa now. It’s been 5 weeks and I still get lightheaded with any activity. I also have daily headaches. Some days are worse than others. My neurologist at 3 weeks was surprised that I wasn’t back to normal yet. I thought he was crazy for thinking that. I am not able to return to work yet as a nurse feeling this way. Anyone else experience these symptoms and for how long did it last? I’m just assuming I feel this way as the artery hasn’t healed yet. I so want to resume my usual activities.

  65. Danielle says

    I had a spontaneous Left VAD on sept.27 /13. I had a sharp shooting pain in my left side of my neck.. I went and sat down then got the spins was about to pass out and laid down on the floor and still had the spins. I got hot and clammy and started getting sick, which continued for 10 min . Then I had a vertigo feeling would make me nauseous. I sat in ER for about 3hrs before a dr looked at me, which I sat in a chair with a bucket and tried not to move! They ended up sending me for a CT scan which they found a small dissection. They admitted me, started me on Plavix and baby aspirin which I stayed in the hospital for 10 . The VAD kept tearing went from my C-V down to C-3 then continued to C-6. They finally let me out of the hospital but to stay on bed rest for a month. I was scheduled for an MRI October 25. Which the dissection had dissected all the way to my aortic arch. Was once again just told to take it easy and not lift, push, pull or strain. January I had another CT scan which is shown some improvement so the neurologist told me to start living life is normal gradually getting back to doing stuff And go off my blood thinners but still take baby aspirin . I Started back at work February 18 which since it started again I have had nothing but head and neck pain. I have had no neurological symptoms as he says so he is not concerned. I have seen a cardiologist Who is concerned that won’t heal on its own ,which I’m now waiting to see a cardiac surgeon. Now eagerly waiting another CT scan at the end of the month here to see how things are going and if I am still showing improvement !! It has been very scary and frustrating not having straight answers and why I’m still having head and neck pain and if it’s safe for me to be back at my job .

    • JB says

      Hello everyone.
      I have just been diagnosed with a stroke caused by a right artery dissection. Here’s how it began…
      About 1 month ago I woke up with the worst cramp in my neck but blew it off as just I slept wrong and went to work.
      I then came home and started my normal workout with weights, again ignoring the pain as I just slept wrong. This went on for the next week until one day during vacuuming I got really dizzy and fell up against a dresser. Then I fell up against the wall and thought man am I having a heart attack. No chest pains or lose off breath. Then the room started spinning and I dropped to all fours and started sweating like someone was pouring a bucket of water over my head. I eventually just laid there trying to calm down. (I had a stroke but didn’t know it). Went to hospital and sat for 4 hours and felt better and decided to leave. Still had neck soreness and just used a heating pad. Then driving I had another episode where I felt weak and dizzy so I just pulled into my driveway and had the wife take me to another hospital.
      Here I was diagnosed with a dissection of the artery leading to the cerebellum.
      I was hospitalized for a week on heparin and now I am on Coumadin for 3-6 months. While there I had a MRI and mra and a catheter done through my groin with a HOT die (unreal heat) to view the arteries to the brain. This is scarey as hell because I’m a very active guy (41) and never had any problems. Played football since I was 8, HS and college with no issues. Now I’m scared to move my head and don’t want to go through another stay at the hospital. Physiologically I am depressed as I feel like half of a man scared to death. I despise hospitals so don’t want to relive that 7 days of constant needle sticking and blood draws. 6 months seems like eternity but I’m strong and will get through it. Thanks for this site as it helps to know details of what others have gone through.

  66. Joanne says

    I am so glad to read these posts as it eases my worry.
    I was diagnosed with VAD and stroke feb. 13/2014.
    About 2 weeks prior to diagnosis I woke up with the WORST headache ever. My neck was also very sore. I managed with Advil for about a week..then and the only way I know how to describe it is my body just melted. I had no control and just fell down. That’s when I went to the ER. A ct scan showed a lesion on my cerabellum. Thankfully, I have no major symptoms of stroke except minor vertigo. I am on platelet medication called clopidogrel.
    I am still having headaches but my neck feels much better. I am trying not to worry and have found much comfort in reading these posts.
    I lead a relatively healthy lifestyle except I am a smoker. Who is desperately is trying to quit!

    Good luck to everyone

  67. Sandy says

    I just suffered a VAD on the right side on March 1st only 5 days ago. I’m home from the hospital on Lovenox & Coumadin. I am a healthy 50 yr old who had this happen while in spin class. After the teacher had us rotate our necks at the start of the class I experienced severe dizziness ,neck pain, . Was rushed to the hospital and fortunately was diagnosed quickly with a cat scan and MRI. I did get my hair done a few days prior to the dissection. My hair salon got new sinks that was uncomfortable. Was wondering if that started it.

    I still have neck pain and headache. I was wondering what limitations I should be taken. How long should I be out of work?

  68. Sarah Stec says

    Hi Robert… I stumbled upon your site when I was searching to see if I could run with a dissection. I am 38, and have had 3 dissections, but no strokes. About two years ago, I was experiencing excruciating headaches, so my doctor sent me for an MRA and it came back abnormal, so after another MRI showing more of my neck and a CT scan, it was concluded I had dissections in the left and right artery. They put me on coumadin and did MRI check ups every 3 months. At the same time, I was also diagnosed with high blood pressure and put on meds for that as well. (It runs on my dad’s side of the family unfortunately). The two dissections healed after about 9 months and my neurologist warned me that there was a possibility of injuring the area again, so I had to be careful and avoid any situations that compromised my neck. No conclusion was drawn as to what caused the initial injury since I was not in a car accident nor did I experience any type of trauma or pressure of that sort.

    Well, four months ago, I started having headaches again and just this past week after the same routine of MRAs and CT scans, they diagnosed yet another dissection. It is smaller and only on the right, however, again, there was no distinct cause as to why this area was injured again. As I am not a dare devil of any sort and am very conscious of my neck since the first situation. It scares me now, because I like to run and keep in shape and I am fearful of injury again.

    I signed up for a study of dissection patients. It is a stroke doctor who is going to document from now until I am healed, noting any headaches, neck pain, etc that I may experience. Currently, they put me on a new blood thinner, Eloquis, so I do not need to have my INR checked every week, took me off the low-dose aspirin I was on and kept me on the blood pressure meds.

    I am frustrated with the situation and just wanted to share my experience . It is scary to live with a threat of stroke over your head.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.


  69. says


    I found an open Facebook group on the topic of Carotid Artery Dissection.

    Looks like they have a lot of activity and probably some good information from supportive people.

    AND, there’s a closed Facebook group on the topic of Vertebral Artery Dissection Support Group which you need to request to join. I’ll post an update here if I get accepted in and find out what’s happening there.

    No need for me to start any new groups on Facebook! But I encourage everyone to check those groups out, too. More information and people to share with, the better.


  70. john says

    can anyone explain the neck pain they experience…location type etc…suspecting i have a vad have had awful neck to head pain for a while been to chiropractor and am worried..thanks

    • says

      Hi John,

      Have you been to a doctor yet? If not, please get checked out as soon as possible! If you’ve been to the ER or a doctor already, what did they say? Were any tests/scans run on your head and neck?

      My first symptom was the most awful headache I had ever had. However, I didn’t have any neck pain at the time of my dissection and stroke. My neck pain was more of a dull, tissue pain a bit deeper under the skin, and it only appeared a week or more after I learned of the dissection. I had no adjustments or trauma that caused mine, so, if you had an adjustment from a chiropractor, that may explain the neck pain you feel.

      Hoping for you that this isn’t a dissection and stroke. Be well.


    • clem says

      I also experienced headaches first, but quickly got an intense neck pain, both of them before I went to ER and got diagnostiqued a VAD rith side.
      All of this happened 2 months ago, and I remeber at this time I didn’t think of a dissection (I had no idea what it was), I was jut desperate to find someone who could do something for that terrible neck pain…
      I booked a session with chiropractor, but could not handle it that long and had to run to ER meanwhile, hoppefully, cause I guess having your neck manipulated while walking with VAD is nothing recommended !

      So don’t get paranoiac, but go consult if it persists…

      To share my story, I am 27 years old female, good health, ex smoker. Sorry for my english, I am french and will try to write as clear as posible.
      One day, I had was I thought was a comon low pressure episode a morning before going to work : got balance issue, felt cold, began to shake of anxiety, and a little bit more strange: got my vision covered with white huge spots, getting almost blind for several minutes, just seeing white fog around me…

      But on that time, I didn’t worry that much and thought it was all because of stress, so I stayed home this mornig and went back to work on the afternoon.

      And then I had headaches for the next 2 weeks, coupled at the end with a terrible neck pain. I was just taking painkillers, but then one day I began to bring all these elements togheter, and worry that it is NOT normal to have continuous headaches for 2 weeks. So one night during what I think we can call a panic crisis (the moment I began to realize something was going wrong), I decided to head to the nearest hospital (I live in Santiago, Chile).

      They took good care of me and made me the necesary exams, MRI. the neurologist told me the images show a right side carotid dissection. From what I told him, he stated I had a small stroke 2 weeks before and told me I was lucky that it didn’t turn too wrong. But they kept me 4 days in observation at the hospital. Gave me strong painkillers, pills I have no idea what they were, aspirin, etc… and I got better soon so they sent me home.
      I had to stay home 5 weeks, then I made a new image for control, and the dr explained (and showed) me that my carotid was getting normal again. Not completetly done with it, but very good progress though. Then I went back to work, avoiding stress and physical effort.

      I have to say, it was so good to go back to social life ! I couldn´t stand beeing home doing nothing, I was begining kind of a small despression. I first was worried about going back to work after so much time out (5 weeks seems long when you are new in your office…), but the moment I entered the place I felt so released ! I was able to work, people who be nice but no over-careful with me, I could walk and have conversations again…

      I think this is very important in the recovering process : to focus on something else than your health condition, avoid having only time to worry about everything, stop thinking you are going to die every time you feel headache…

      My boyfriend was helping me all this time, stayed with me at the hospital, worked home when I had to stay in bed, etc… He was there to take my hand and patiently listen to my worries, to talk to me whenhever I was having panic about not knowing if I would have a troke or get better any day, to chear me up any time I needed… But he was also pushing me to go back to work as soon as possible . And at the begining I would not understand his reaction and think he would not understand my feelings, underestimate my worries… But he was repeating me it was not good to keep thinking about this all the time, that recidive was were rare, that I should not get paranoiac because it would lead me to a depression. And as I said, he was so right about going back to work, getting activities again !

      2 months later, I still take spirin daily, I still have headaches, I still freak out everytime I go pain somewhere… but nothing compared to the time I was in the hospital or the first week after diagnostic.

      So take time to rest home (receiving friends or compagny in order to avoid beeing left alone), follow your doctor´s recommendations, and keep an eye on your health situation. But don’t give it more importance that it requires, don’t let anxiety getting you down, speak your worries to close friends and you will see improvement soon. KEEP POSITIVE, it really helps !

      Hope my story can help, and hope you all get better soon !

  71. Audrey says

    Thank you for creating this site. It has given me comfort to find others going through what I’m experiencing and to hear stories of victory and healing. I am just had my two week CTA scan after being discharged from the hospital with a left intracranial VAD. I’m still in a lot of pain and restricted from doing so many things it feels like my body is attached to an eggshell for a head. Reading the posts here have given me hope that I will lead a normal life again.

    • says

      Hi Audrey,

      I’m so glad you found the site and find it helpful. I had no idea when I posted my story that it would help others, so I’m grateful to you and everyone else who has commented. Do take care but also be as active as your doctors and your gut feelings tell you to be. I firmly believe that exercise is medicine.

      I hope we get to read an update or two from you as your recovery progresses. I’m hopeful for you.


  72. Angel says

    I suffered a bilateral VAD…with the right side almost no flow. It happened while getting a neck adjustment. This was a year ago …at 6 months was off of Coumadin . I still feel dizzy with fast movement…and when looking left. I had some memory issues and still feel my short term isn’t great. There is a constant swooshing/ringing in rt ear. Has anyone else had these symptoms? Emotionally drained from the fear I may never feel normal.

    • Lyndon Joshua says

      Hi angel yea I had my heartbeat ringing I’m my left year for about 4 months after suffering my CAD disappeared now though hopefully yours will clear with time

    • says

      Hi Angel,

      I think everyone’s story is a little different. And I’m so thankful you found the site and shared a bit about what you’re dealing with. I sometimes hear a swooshing in my ear from bloodflow, and I wonder if it’s blood pressure related. Mine symptoms are not constant, though, so I can understand the fear and frustration you feel.

      I hope yours resolves in time like Lyndon mentioned yesterday. Stay as active as you can and keep talking with your physician(s) about how you’re doing. And share any updates here if you can. I know I’d appreciate hearing how you’re doing and think others will too.


  73. ariel huguet says

    I am a 26yr old male. I suffered a VAD and cerebellum TIA after a jiu jitsu class in sept 2013. I’ve since been cleared and have returned to training jiu jitsu. I know there is mixed feeling in the medical world about returning to contact sports, but my doctor explained that artery dissections, overall are rare and re-dissections are rare as well. Im now on daily 81mg aspirin.
    I was wondering if anyone has experience returning to contact sports after VAD and/or stroke?
    Thank You.

    • says

      Hi Ariel,

      How are things going for you now? I can’t speak to any specific experience with contact sports after my VAD and stroke. I think that I could probably play a contact sport if I wanted. But, I’m a bit older than you (42) and not inclined to take the risk. I would probably think twice about committing to a hard header in soccer (football for the purists out there!), but that’s more of my psychological frame of mind now than any current instruction from my healthcare providers.

      Just know that, even if the risk is low, your first (and hopefully only) VAD and TIA event was caused by something that happened during a contact sport. This isn’t meant to discourage you but to have you be aware of the risk. I hope you live life fully and do everything that you want, including jiu jitsu and anything else.

      If you can, please do check in with any updates. Hopefully someone will be able to answer with their experience returning to contact sports after a dissection and TIA or stroke.

      Best to you!

  74. SL says

    Hello. I want to thank Robert and everyone who has shared their stories here. I’m 39 years old and was was diagnosed with a spontaneous carotid artery dissection 2 weeks ago after having 2 small strokes. I was fortunate that the strokes don’t appear to have caused any lasting damage, so I just need to focus on the healing of my artery. I’ve gone through a variety of emotions these past 2 weeks and reading the information here has provided a lot of comfort to my husband and I.

    I am curious if anyone ever started a Facebook group that was mentioned previously in this blog? I’d be interested in joining if it was started.

    Thank you again for the information shared here!

    • says


      Thanks so much for sharing here. I hope you’re well on the road to recovery and your artery is healing. Have you had any follow-up scans yet, or is it still too soon?

      I never started a Facebook group. I wanted to, but I also want the group to reach more people than those who use Facebook. Something there would be better than nothing, though, as it’s where so many folks are anyway. I’m glad you asked and will look to see if anyone started a group for artery dissections and stroke yet. If not, I’ll aim to get something going this week. I promise!

      SL (or anyone else), please hound me if you don’t see a comment here about that by Friday afternoon (Feb 28).


  75. d h says

    hi all i lost my left va during surgery,10 yrs ago which also cuased anuerysm due to compression,ive never had a stroke and go about daily life we all have the same thought ,what next nearly every day but thats only human nature,ive done it for 10yrs,my mind cant rule my symptoms,so i still jump at the slightest twinge lol what a waste of time im still here and never suffered anything serious,you can live with 3 arterys very well im proof im57 control of the mind seems to be the way forward.u all be lucky

  76. Lyndon Joshua says

    Hi Robert thanks for the advice and hope, 6 months for you to be fully recovered with no restrictions is great.
    I have requested our occ health send me for an MRI scan failing that I will refer myself for one privately .
    I realise everyone heals differently especially with this type of injury and I have found it has left some psychological scars.
    Thanks for the advice good luck to everyone

  77. Lyndon says

    Hi I was diagnosed with CAD in last week of September 2013 possibly caused by chiropractor and surfing. Spent week in hospital only symptoms were horners syndrome and real bad headache on left side of my head. My left eye still looks slightly droopy and feels bit funny was wondering if this could be due to the nerve being still damaged.
    I have been discharged as an out patient, from hospital back in November and am now back training like I was pre CAD I.e. Running gym weights have avoided all contact sports though. I am 38 and a fireman so really worried about being able to return to operational duty!! On light duties at the moment.
    Anyone got any ideas on when I might be fully healed I have no scans planned and have got the psychological battle to overcome.
    I am determined to beat this and return to normal no matter what I have to do or how long it takes.
    Any information would be great as there is a lack of information out there.

    Many thanks Lyndon

    • says

      Hi Lyndon,

      First, glad you found the site and are back to a good deal of activity. I don’t know how long it may take for your CAD to fully heal, and the only way (that I know of) to track your recovery progress is to have a periodic MRA to show how your artery looks. You probably won’t find much resistance to getting an order for an MRA at some point to determine how well you’re doing. Given that you’re a firefighter, I say get the MRA so you can get back to full duty!

      I think it was within six months of the VAD and stroke that I was cleared for all activity and told I had no restrictions whatsoever.

      Hope this info helps you and you continue on to a full recovery.

  78. SJ says

    Hi All
    just came across this site and have taken lots of comfort from reading the comments. I am 46 and had my VAD and stroke one week ago. Similar to others not diagnosed correct following CT scan but finally got there with MRI. symptoms included loss of balance and veering to left and loss of pain/heat/cold sensation down right side of body. One week in am already getting sensation back in right arm and balance is better. in fact quite a remarkable change in a week.
    Reading all the comments gives me hope for the future – all the best. SJ Vancouver

    • says


      Thanks for sharing your story here. I hope you have a full and quick recovery. I’m so glad you found the site and it provides some sense of comfort and community. Let me/us know how things are going for you over the next few months.


  79. Vicky Downes says

    Hi everyone! I suffered a carotid artery dissection almost 5 years ago when I was 28. My only symptom was a droopy eyelid – in fact I thought I had an eye infection! I only went to get checked out as I was about to go on two months leave to mongolia where health care was lacking so I thought if I needed eye drops I should get them before I went. I got passed around 4 consultants and asked some very strange questions at the eye hospital and that’s when I realised it must be something abit more serious. They informed me I had horners syndrome as my pupil was also non reactive which meant something was pressing in the nerve to my eye. Normally a brain tumor or lung tumor so I was admitted immediately to uch in London ( my consultant is dr werring at queens park square neurological hospital). X-rays and bloods were fine so an mri was done the following morning which showed the dissection and blood clot pressing in the nerve. I was put in intensive care for a week and was immediately heparinised. I was on half hourly neurological obs. Luckily I didn’t have a stroke which I was told was quite rare as symptoms ar so limited normally people only discover once a stroke happens. I was on warfarin for 6 months and after than was advised to take mini aspirin. They think it was caused by a skydive about 2-3 weeks before. I had done several before with no problems though. I was also building a rockery in the garden at the time and shifting heavy rocks so I wonder if that was more likely to be the cause.
    My droopy eye has not fully recovered although it’s better than it was immediately after. It still looks sleepy and is particularly droopy when I am tired. Apparently the nerve was damaged by the clot.
    I sometimes get pain in my neck now which is odd as I didn’t at the time. I wonder if that is more psychological or even that because I am inadvertently trying to protect my neck maybe I hold it in unusual positions with resultant muscle pain.
    My only other ongoing symptom is that I now seem to get migraines after intensive exercise which I never used too- especially after running.
    I was advised reoccurance us very rare but to avoid contact sports such as martial arts and rugby or jarring my neck ie no more skydives and no Bungy jumps and no roller-coaster etc (tho admittedly I went one one this year again for first time). I was also told to be careful about over extending my neck for example at hairdressers in wash basin so to lean forward not back over basin. I was however told riding skiing climbing etc should be ok ( unless you fall lol). I’ve even done ziplining and I just got signed off this month for diving.
    Everyone tells me none if these activities are without risk but that the risk should be low and isn’t really quantifiable so it’s just a question if looking out for any symptoms and being as careful as you can without losing your life.
    Has anyone else scuba dived following their dissection? Also does anyone else get these exercise headaches now and have any suggestions on treating them? I’m assuming the artieries or capillaries don’t dilate properly now or something and Increased blood pressure on exercise is the cause if the headaches but I don’t really know….
    Good luck to everyone!

    • says

      Wow, Vicky! Thanks for sharing your experience.

      I sometimes still get headaches, but I can’t attribute them to exercise. Even strenuous exercise for me doesn’t induce the headaches. I do, however, feel like my headaches are all inversely related to my level of hydration.

      Please do consult with your physicians about the headaches and, hopefully, they’ll be able to find relief for you.

      Best regards,

  80. Katie says

    I have a quick question. My husband just came home today from the hospital after having a VAD and a stroke. He has been recovering well (age:35) but today is complaining of new pain in the neck – but in the same area. He is describing the pain not like it was before – but more like a muscle pull or tension. Do you know if this is something to be worried about, or is it due to the strain of the stroke/ tear, way he is holding his neck now, etc. thanks so much.

    • says

      Hi Katie,

      I’ve definitely felt a pain like that. I don’t know if it’s normal or not, so please do have your husband discuss it with his physician(s). It may be nothing to get too concerned about, but you never know. Better to be safe than sorry.

      Best wishes to you and your husband. If you’re able to follow up when you know more, I’m sure it will be appreciated by me and anyone else visiting my blog.

      Happy holidays to you.


  81. Kerry says

    This is the most positive i have felt in weeks, thank you so much for telling your stories. I had a carotid and vertebral dissection as a result of diving for a volleyball and going to a chiropractor. Both of which I will never do again. I have always been an active person. Played volleyball, soccer, baseball and football. Tried almost every sport and loved to push myself. Now I am told that even holding my daughters will cause an injury. I am 32, I wanted to have one more baby and I am not sure that will be In the cards for me. My accident happened on 10/07/13, I went to the ER twice before they finally gave me an MRA and found both arteries damaged. I was admitted into the hospital on 10/11 and spent 8 days total there. I have had 3 scans since and my carotid artery is already healed. My left vertebral is gone completely and my right vertebral is still aggravated not torn. I am scared all the time. I was told that I had a minor stroke. Only losing my balance for a few days but every weird feeling I think immediately that something is wrong. What I have now is some comfort, I know more of what to look for and how long my recovery will take. I have another MRA scheduled on 12/18. I pray that it will show my right artery relaxing and more new veins forming for my loss of my left vertebral. I will be on warfarin for some time I am told and I am trusting that it is working to ensure that my blood is following smoothly.

    • says

      Kerry – thanks so much for sharing your story here. I’m glad they finally found the VADs and hopeful that with your young age and ability to recover fully, that you’ll be able to return to full activities, including having additional children within a reasonable timeframe.

      All the best to you, and please do check in with any updates.

  82. Dan says

    I was diagnosised with VAD about 7 months ago. I suffered the injury from working out too hard completing over head squats. I did not suffer a stroke luckily only extreme head pains. My neuro put me on beta blockers, baby aspirin, and anti-coagulants. Just recently I completed a CT scan to identify progress. The right artery is completely healed but left vertrebral artery is mildly dissected. My neuro wants me to continue life activities while still on the medication. I started working out gently again and feel pressure at times in the sides/back of my head and aches is my neck/head. My neuro discussed how the muscles are sore and this is normal. This mainly occurs after I workout not during. Has anyone else have similar experiences. Any thoughts/suggestions moving forward?! This VAD has been very difficult for myself and believe the medication/life change has made at times depressed. Thx for any feed back!!!

    • says

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for sharing your story here. I’m glad you’re able to resume your normal activities, and I can bet others, including me, have felt the anxiety and depression that comes with having to face issues like ours.

      Regarding your question about pressure and pain in the head and neck after activity, I haven’t experienced that in the same way you describe. At times, I would feel a deep, muscular pain in my neck around where my dissection was. I often wondered (pain doesn’t seem to happen anymore) if it was a phantom pain—one that was more of a feeling that arose from worry about that area.

      I wish you continued recovery and do keep in touch with me and everyone here on the blog.


  83. jb says

    Reoccurances are rare – but I had one. They think the second one was related to the first – compromised artery. I had two strokes. I am 44. I am VERY lucky I regained my left side movement. I am 4 months out of the second episode.

    • Gabby says

      Jb, How far apart were your two strokes? had you recovered from the first when the second happened? aside from the compromised artery, were you doing any activity that you think triggered the second stroke? … Sorry for the multiple questions. You are the first person I have heard from that has had a second stroke cause by VAD. My neurologists told me that the risk of reoccurrence was very low, so I’m curious about your case.

      • jb says

        they were 1.5 years apart. I had recovered from the first one and my artery had healed (MRI), but do have permanent hearing loss from the first one. my first one was after a neck adjustment. the second – they think because the artery was compromised – after tennis (serving?) or kayaking (turning my neck?). they never told me not to do certain things after the first one. I probably wouldn’t have been I can’t give too many details, due to an active lawsuit. i never, ever, ever thought it would happen again. i was shock for about a month. I regained my left side – it had been paralyzed. I am going to hope that it can NOT happen again. I was told to “retire my active lifestyle”. I am very slow & careful moving my neck. Scared to drive. It sucks.

      • says

        JB and Gabby – Thanks for being here and sharing.

        I hope you’re able to return to more activity as you continue on your recovery journey. I can’t fathom being told to retire my active lifestyle, so I really want that to not be true for you… maybe the artery will repair itself in a convincing way or other trusted healthcare opinions will emerge that aren’t so restrictive.

  84. Gabby says

    As many others here, I had a VAD and stroke 4 months ago, presumably caused by chiropractor neck manipulation and exacerbated by exercise. I was very active at the time – running, cycling, beach volleyball, etc. I am almost fully recovered and my CT w/contrast scan showed that my artery is almost healed. I only get occasional headaches and almost never have “bad days”. My question for this group is related to what your neurologists recommended to avoid in terms of physical activities. Mine asked me to avoid any activity that puts my neck at risk, either due to over-extension or impact. As a result, a few of my activities have had to come off my list: volleyball, cycling (road biking for long distances due to the lowered upper body position and extension of the neck to look ahead), and other activities like horseback riding and roller coasters. What are you guys avoiding?

    • says

      Hi Gabby,

      Thanks for sharing your story here. For a while, my neurologist recommended that I avoid things that involved changes in altitude or pressure (SCUBA diving, skydiving, mountaineering, and any unpressurized air travel). He also said no head impact sports like soccer, football, or things like that. I was cleared to run and ride the bike when scans showed that my artery was well on it’s way back to normal. That was about six months post stroke. I was cautioned about biking only because there’s a greater risk of having head/neck trauma in an accident.

      Now, I’m cleared to do anything I’d like. I find that I’m more self-limiting than any of my doctors are… I won’t ride roller coasters now even though I enjoyed them prior. I just don’t want to risk it. But, I’ll certainly ride my road bike, run, and go climbing (if I get the opportunity again) without worrying about my vertebral artery. Most of my friends and colleagues have either forgotten or can’t believe this happened to me a couple of years ago. I realize how fortunate I am to not have any major long-term problems from it.

      Hope this is helpful to you.

    • RR says

      I had a VAD about 6 months ago and I am off Coumadin and on Plavix now. Based on the recent MRAs taken, my artery has healed completely and my neurologist cleared me to do most of the activities as long as they don’t involve jerky movements of the neck. Also, I was recommended not to be super competitive in sports activities for 6 more months. Frankly, I decided to avoid any contact sports. Actually, I started yoga and even that I had to stop since I started developing neck pain etc. Right now, the game plan is just to stick to treadmill, stationary biking and very mild nautilus machine based exercises (not involving neck again) for 6 more months and take it from there. Again, Robert, thanks for this setting up this blog and before stumbling on this site, I was going crazy! It is good to know that most of us affected with a VAD have recovered fully in about 6 months to a year.

      • says

        RR: Thanks for sharing your story. So glad this site and info is helpful. Just out of curiosity… do you know what caused your VAD? I’m still not 100% certain myself.

      • RR says

        Robert, I am not 100% sure what triggered my VAD either except I was fairly active with my sports activities and I had some neck pain for almost a month or so at that time; and I was thinking about getting some physical therapy when all of a sudden VAD hit me! Not really knowing what caused it is why I am being super cautious about getting back to any real sports activity even though my doc has cleared me to resume moderate level of exercise regimen. When I talked to a neurologist friend in a different state, he asked me to rather wait for at least a year for the reason being that I or my own neurologist are not sure what caused this in the first place and so it is better to be safe rather sorry while getting back into any serious regimen of sports activity. When I hear your story, it brings me a lot of optimism and, of course, I was told by at least 4 different neurologists in the hospital I was in that the full recovery rate for VAD cases after 1 year is almost 98% and after 2 years it is close to 100%. I am holding on to that for now and really looking forward to getting back into the gym with gusto!

    • says

      This blog is still open. I just haven’t had much time to post any updates, but I’ve been considering a follow-up piece on what in experienced and learned throughout my recovery.

    • says

      Hi Nathan,

      Yes, most definitely. I was recently thinking about posting an update—it’s long overdue—with a recap of my experience with recovery from the VAD and stroke. I’ve been fully cleared to resume normal, and even strenuous activities for a while. But, the experience has certainly made a mark on me and my family about how precious and delicate life can be.

      Thanks for checking in… and sorry for making you wonder if this was still active or not!


  85. Jeff says

    I had a vertebral artery dissection and stroke about 2 months ago. While playing baseball, I began experiencing double vision, extreme vertigo, light headed feelings and then vomited uncontrollably until they took me to the ER. I am 42, active, worked out regularly since I was 13, never smoke or drink, have normal blood pressure, and was told my stroke was caused by years or playing sports and then a sudden tear of my artery. My coordination and walking is greatly improved after 8 weeks, and I have begun light weight lifting. However I still have tremendous neck pain(is this normal?), daily headaches, some vertigo and they can’t get my INR over 1.2 despite continuous increases in my coumadin doses. Anyone having similar experiences?

    • Meg says

      Jeff have you figured out your neck pain? I had a VAD that was caused by unstable vertebrae in my neck. I also had terrible neck pain and migraines. I had to have a one level fusion and have been so much better since…

      • jeff says

        Hi Meg. Still experiencing major neck pain and migraines, and no one has given me much assistance. I greatly appreciate your feedback and am happy to hear you are feeling better! Thanks for the input, I will ask my doctor about potential unstable vertebrae at my next appointment.

  86. Grahame says

    This is amazing! I just had the exact same injury. Mine was caused by me putting a 45lbs plate behind my head and doing squats, or as my neurologist said, stupidity. Thank you for you posts, it gives me a rough time line as to recovery. I feel I am wasting away not going to the gym.

    • Dan says

      Hi Grahame,
      I ironically suffered a VAD in similar fashion. I was completing over head squats and felt the pain in the back of my head. What’s your prognosis look like? I went through a mini depression and was really impacted by not working out. I just started working out two wks ago with extreme cation.

  87. Rachel Marie says

    Hey there! I recently suffered a spontaneous vertebral arterial dissection (complete with a small stroke) just this past December and I am still having some difficulty, but it seems to either have healed or is healing rapidly. This has been the most difficult situation I have experienced in the 33 years of life I have lived thus far but I am determined to never let it rule me, and that is what we all must do. I’m only on 81mg of aspirin and have been off the Plavix since February with no follow-up MRI, so I guess no news is good news? I still have headaches, an occasional debilitating one from time to time, but for the most part I’m doing rather well considering. I love this blog because its nice to know that there are people out there who truly understand what you are going through and how you feel. I vote a Facebook page Robert! Let’s do it!

    God bless you all, and best wishes.

    • says

      Hi Rachel,

      Glad you found the site and commented here. I don’t know how long it will be before the headaches subside for you, but I hope it’s soon. Definitely keep your healthcare team updated about all your symptoms and any concerns.

      I think a Facebook page or some other sort of community/group resource is a great idea! If you’re willing to help on that front, then let’s make this happen.

      Best to you, and look for an email from me about the Facebook idea.


  88. Dana says

    I am 29 years old and suffered a VAD and two strokes following a chiropractic neck adjustment on 5/11/13. The second day ffollowing the adjustment I had an excruciating neck/headache. I had to leave work it was so awful. I continued to see the chiropractor because he said sometimes people have pain following these procedures. He only did heat and electrotherapy along with some kind of pressure point tapping adjustments for two weeks. After about 5 days the pain was subsiding. I ended up taking 2 days off of work….mind you I’m hardly ever out sick. At about the 4 week mark I woke up one morning and my whole world was spinning. I immediately laid back down and called in sick to work. I tried the next day to go to work. That morning was the first time I noticed my right eye was droopy. My coworkers told me to go to the doctor. I went to my primary care physician that afternoon. She went me home with anti-nausea meds and an order for head CT without contrast. The earliest they could get me in was two days later. Again the next day I tried working to no avail. This was the time when I said enough is enough and went to the ER. My face had been droopy when the pain was present and I had started to walk/list to the right. Again I was almost discharged because I currently had no neuro symptoms. Luckily, while I was waiting for discharge I had a bout of pain and my face had started to droop. The doctor immediately ordered the CT angiogram that showed I had suffered a VAD. After being admitted to the ICU, I was taken for an MRI that confirmed I had suffered two strokes. I was extremely lucky though as both strokes occurred in areas that primarily only affect balance. I’m now 4 weeks past my ER visit and still improving in mobility and endurance. I fatigue quickly and have awful numbness/tickling sensations on my entire left side. I have a follow up CT angio on July 10. I’m hoping it shows some arterial improvement. I’m only on Asprin 325 once a day. I see a lot of folks on here are on the higher/more potent blood thinners.
    I’m hoping to get back to my normal life soon but in the meantime I’m just giving my body the time it needs to heal. I hope that my story may make someone question whether or not they should allow a chiropractor to do a neck manipulation…..
    Thanks to everyone on here that has shared!

    • says

      Hi Dana,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m relieved to hear you were (finally) able to get the diagnosis after being sent away previously. Please do give yourself time to heal—it may take some patience but you’ll be better off not pushing things too much early on.

      From my experience, the symptomatic headaches went away slowly over time (4-6 weeks post stroke) and I have been doing well ever since.

      My best wishes and thoughts are with you and hope you have a full, quick recovery.


  89. Sandie says

    I m 41 years old, healthy, active, didn’t have any neck trauma, but woke up with severe bed spins 2 weeks ago and then was sweating so bad I was soaking wet. I woke my husband and my 21 year old son, he just graduated nursing school and determined I was having a stroke. I am so scared and worried, how to do continue and not worry about this happening again. I just don’t understand why it happened and how to avoid it again.
    I’m so happy for the positive results from all of your stories, I’m going through the “it’s not fair” stage and can’t seem to get out of it. :(

    • iamjolly says

      Hi Sandie,

      Sorry this happened to you, but thanks for sharing here. You’re really fortunate that your son and husband were with you and were able to get you to medical care quickly. Try, if you can, to focus on the positive things while you continue your recovery.

      For a long time I worried about a recurrence, and honestly, the thought still creeps up from time to time. But, it does get better, and the best thing to do is keep active and living a healthy life to the fullest. Sounds cliché, yes, but I hope there’s comfort in that somehow.

      Best to you and your family,

  90. Paul says

    Hello Robert,

    I love this blog. I am a physical therapist and have a patient that was recently diagnosed with a VAD. The first one in 15 years of practice. One thing I cannot find in your blog was your original symptoms. What were the preceding indications of your problem or those of your other posters? I know the text book symptoms but curious what you went thru.

    • says

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for finding this and for your comment. What happened with me, in terms of initial symptoms, was a sudden onset of severe headache, nausea, and loss of balance. There was no buildup of pain or discomfort in my neck or head—it came on without warning. My neurologist called it a case of spontaneous vertebral artery dissection (sVAD), as I had no history of trauma or genetic risk factors or any other events which could be blamed for the VAD.

      I did have some mild hypertension prior to the VAD, and that could be a contributing factor. The stress that the arterial walls were subjected to, over time may have weakened them. However, there’s no way to know for sure. I was very active prior to the VAD and stroke, and my health was off-the-charts excellent. My resting heart rate at time of VAD was in the low 40s, so the mild HTN was the only issue which may have impacted me.

      I hope this helps, but do let me know if you want to explore this further. I’m borderline evangelical about the role of exercise and fitness in recovery from brain injury (and any injury for that matter). :)


  91. Jane says

    I am 28 and has a vertebral dissection and stroke after a skiing injury. I fell hard and hit my head and had concussion. I recovered quickly and got back to normal activities, then 10 days after I had severe vomiting, vertigo, and double vision. After an MRI i was diagnosed with a stroke. It’s 7 weeks after my stroke now and I am much better now. My balance is back to normal, but unfortunately I still have some double vision. My neurologist says this will go away gradually. I just wanted to share my story with you all and wish you all the best.

    • says

      Wow, Jane! Thanks for sharing your experience here. I’m glad to hear you’re doing better, and I hope you enjoy a full, quick recovery which allows you to return to being as active as you want. It certainly sounds like that will happen!

      • Rene' says


        I had severe stroke symptoms on Dec. 25, 2012 and was taken to the local hospital (we were out of town for Christmas). The Dr. discovered a left VAD but no “stroke”. I they transferred me to a larger (more capable) hospital and I was there for 3 days then straight to their PT unit for another 8 days. I underwent lots of testing but no one has ever verified an actual stroke. I had another ‘episode’ in the middle of Jan. (this year) and was only in the hospital over night. I’m having some vision issues, memory loss and balance problems currently. My leg is still weak and my hand doesn’t always do what I tell it too, but other than that, I seem to have recovered.

        I don’t know where to go from here… I see my PC doc today. I am going to ask for an MRA to check on the healing of the VAD because I don’t believe it’s healed. I still get severe neck and trapezeus pain that ends up causing a tension like headache. What happens if the VAD doesn’t heal? Am I looking at more ‘episodes’ in the future? Also, could it be possible that I’m having an ongoing loss of blood flow to my brain?

        I’m scared and can’t seem to find answers!

        Any information you have would be great!



      • iamjolly says

        Hi Rene,

        Sorry to hear that you’ve had to deal with a VAD and resulting problems. I hope the physician visit provided some answers and a direction toward recovery for you. To me, it certainly sounds like you need to have information that you’re confident in. Perhaps there are some specialists available for second opinions.

        I hope you have a full recovery and don’t settle for any non-specific information about your diagnosis and treatment plan.

        Please do let me (and those of us who read the blog) know how you’re doing and if there’s anything anyone can do for you.


      • Stephanie says

        Robert if you are in the US go see Dr. Biller at Loyola in Chicago he did my diagnosis and managed my case excellently.

  92. Susan says

    My husband is currently recovering from a left vertebral dissection and stroke. He colapsed while standing at the sink doing dishes. He never lost consciousness. Extreme dizziness and headache, light sensitivity etc. Taken to ER. Ct was negative, ER dr starts taking about a bad migraine. Finally I said loudly…52 yr olds can have a stroke!are you equipped to handle this type of event here? “yes we are a stroke hospital”. Ok what other test can diagnose a stroke cuz I know CT scans don’t always show a stroke in 1st 24 hr. He finally ordered an MRI and that lead to a diagnoses of stroke. We got the diagnoses approximately 4-41/2 hours after onset of symptoms…does anyone know if TPA would help w the dissection type of vad…just curious if anyone was give that drug. My husband was in an ICU for 2 days w horrific headaches , then flown to a specialized neuro ICU due to brain swelling, stayed their another 7 nights. He was able to escape the drainage or brain surgery. He is now in a rehab hospital for another week. His main problem now is dizziness w standing. Hopefully things will get better.

    • says

      Hello Susan,

      Thank you for sharing you and your husband’s story here. First, I’m glad he seems to be doing well. It sounds like he received (and continues to receive) the help he needed. He’s so fortunate that you spoke up and didn’t allow them to stop before fully ruling out a stroke. Bravo for you!

      Everyone should learn how to recognize stroke warning signs, and then speak up when something doesn’t seem right whether or not it’s convincing a loved one to get medical help or insisting on a comprehensive diagnostic approach from healthcare providers. Susan, you may have saved your husband’s life by challenging the doctor to order more than a CT. Luckily for me, my stroke was minor enough that I didn’t die as a result of my own experience with a missed diagnosis of “headache” after a CT in the ER.

      I am not qualified to answer your question about tPA and how it relates to treatment for a vertebral artery dissection. I do know that my neurologist said that Warfarin/Coumadin therapy was the “gold standard” in treatment for VAD, and that worked for me. It sounds like your husband is in good hands with his current neurologist(s), so I am sure they have a sense of what will be the most effective treatment plan to follow.

      My thoughts and well wishes are with you and your husband, Susan. Please do keep me updated. I’m optimistic that the worst is behind you both now.


  93. Kyle Poole says

    Thanks for your posts Robert. Congrats on your recovery! I am 43, married, with two teenage sons, very healthy & active, & had a VAD on Sept. 6, 2012 that led to a stroke. Fortunately, the stroke was isolated in the cerebellum, the artery has “healed” and I have been back to “normal activity” since a few weeks after the stroke. I intially thought I had vertigo, got a shot for nausea and laid in the bed for 48 hours not realizing what was truly happening – even though I has a crushing headache. After the CT scan at the ER revealed the stroke, I was in ICU for a few days, had some therapy initially to regain balance & vision, and was on Warfarin for 3 months after the stroke. Folow-up MRA’s showed “healthy blood flow” and that the artery was healed (though they could “see where the VAD happened it now looks like an old injury that has healed.” (Praise God.) Now, I take an adult aspirin once a day, and run 9-12 miles a week at a pretty decent pace. Planning on a 10k in April to kind of “celebrate” the recovery. The docs cleared me for running pretty early on, but advised me to be careful with any contact sports, or sports where I would have to “whip my neck” quickly. They told me roller coasters were out forever :( I have some “dull neck pain” from time to time & occasional headaches in the back of my head – especially later in the day – I attribute these symptoms to ongoing healing from the VAD & stroke, and will go back for another visit with the neurologist this summer to check things out. I am extremely thankful for life & healing and want to encourage others who are recovering from VAD’s to stay positive and active – there are brighter days ahead!

    • says

      Hello Kyle,

      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s so similar to mine, and I’m grateful for the confirmation that activity helps with the healing process. I hope all continues to go well for you and you’re able to do anything your sons can — with the possible exception of roller coasters!


  94. Gregg says

    I had a left vertebral artery dissection from an injury after going down a water slide in a mud run. Someone slammed into me at the bottom of the slide. No symptoms until 10 days later when I had a stroke.
    Recovered enough within 10 minutes to be able to get up off the floor and drive to the emergency room.
    They did a CT scan and did not see anything and dismissed it as vertigo. I was still partially blind in my left eye. Went to another hospital that evening and got an MRI and was admitted for a week. After my hospital stay …my energy level has decreased. I get headaches and pressure in my head. (never before this stroke) Stiff neck…so stiff it cracks when I turn my head. Sometimes I get a little dizzy and my vision a little blurry.
    The neurologist says it is completely crushed and no blood flow but arteries sometimes heal themselves.
    My question is there anything I can do besides taking Coumadin? Will light exercise tell my brain that it needs more blood and increase the chances of healing? Read that taking Niacin (not the no flush) will increase blood flow. Besides time and prayer…what else can I do?
    Gregg McElwee
    Laguna Hills, California

    • says

      Hi Gregg,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. You’re fortunate you got the MRI to correctly diagnose the VAD & stroke. I had headaches daily for about four weeks after the stroke, then somewhat regularly (but not daily) for about two to three weeks after that. The good news is the headaches went away. I hope the same for you. I sometimes feel pain in my neck and wonder if it’s from my vertebral artery, but I tend to think I’m hypervigilant about any kind of strange or unpleasant feeling in my head or neck now. Your pain is almost certainly more real than mine (due from the trauma you suffered), so I would recommend speaking with your neurologist about that. Especially since you have dizziness and vision issues accompanying that pain.

      My artery has healed completely now. So, yes, these dissections can and do heal. The “gold standard” of treatment has been Coumadin/Warfarin therapy. I don’t know about nor can I recommend anything beyond that. I did start light exercise during my treatment – walking, then some running – with the awareness and blessing of my physicians (primary doc and neurologist). I am of the opinion that exercise is almost always a good thing for healing. But too much at the wrong time could be disastrous!

      My advice would be to keep speaking with your neurologist and other qualified medical providers and let them know your goals and any issues you’re having. It does take time, but it sounds like you were active (probably very much so) prior to the VAD and stroke. There’s no reason to think that you can’t return to full activity after allowing time for recovery. My thoughts are with you and your family. Thanks again for reaching out.


    • says

      What was the reply From your doc? I’m about 3-4 weeks out of my spontaneous VAD and stroke. I’m suffering headaches, neck and back pain, but mostly just fatigue.I am so fatigued and wondering if yours ever lessoned?

  95. SUSA says

    So sorry for your situation, but thankful you are doing so well. Happy to find your post.

    Female mid40’s -First week of October 2012 had severe bronchitis. While coughing had sudden SEVERE HEAD PAIN (maybe thunderclap but certainly not a headache). Screamed & cried 30 minutes to ER. CT showed nothing & sent home. 3 horrible weeks, 5 more incidents, 2 more ER visits & 3 dr visits. Right side of head & face numb, I kept insisting something was bad wrong but no one listened. All said to young for stroke, suposedly protocol doesn’t call for MRA-contrast in ER. Woke up with numbness on Left side. Finally had enough. Feeling little better & ready to fight for myself I went to Houston. Diagnosed with vertebral artery dissection (maybe from cough) & multiple vasculitis in brain. Now on meds & waiting for possible autoimmune diagnosis. Please listen to your body. You know you best. Sometimes you have to insist & Don’t be dismissed. You have to be your own health advocate. Don’t have blind faith in you health care providers. If you aren’t getting what you need – MOVE ON. I am so blessed to have made it to Houston. Things could have been so much worse. Still to early to tell what the future holds, but to hard headed to accept anything less than the best. Thanks for a sounding board. I soooooooooooo needed that. Hope it helps others.

  96. Jv says

    I have read your story and I must say God bless you! My husband had a right vertebral artery dissection (september 16th) he has not experienced any loss of motor skills, memory etc. The only symptom he has is lightheadedness. Given the many things the doctors said could have happened, we consider him “lucky”. The dissection spared his brain stem and the PICA area. His collateral arteries are making up for the loss thankfully. He is on coumadin and we will have a follow up mra in December, as this will mark the 3 month period. We are both so afraid of him having another stroke, or dissection on the other side. I have read that in some people it has happened. Its no way to live and time is really the only thing that will bring us comfort. But, how did you deal with this? Were you constantly afraid of it happening again? were you afraid to move naturally? Did your artery heal on its own, did you do anything other than the anti-coagulation therapy? I am sorry for al the questions but this is still new to us and we are still mostly in shock. We are hoping for the very same outcome that you experienced. But again, once it heals, did they want to put in a stent for safety purposes or are they satisfied that it healed and is no longer a threat to you?

    I know every case is different but I just thought I would inquire. Stay well and all the best to you.

    • says

      Hi JV,

      Thanks for sharing your husband’s (and your) story. It sounds like he may have had an event eerily similar to mine. I didn’t experience lightheadedness, but I had pretty severe headaches daily for about six weeks post-stroke. My dissection was deemed “spontaneous” in that the doctors and I cannot determine any events or trauma that can be labeled as a cause for it. It may be due to a history of mild hypertension which caused stress on the artery that eventually tore, or it may just be genetics.

      I was afraid, for a while, that I might make the dissection worse and/or suffer another stroke. My doctors wanted me to be pretty conservative with my activities to reduce my risk of damaging the artery for about 3-4 months. They said, specifically, to avoid soccer or other impact sports, avoid skydiving, SCUBA diving, and mountaineering to avoid pressure changes which might affect the healing of the artery, and to be careful when biking and running. I only do the running and cycling thing, so I just took it easy and allowed myself some time to heal.

      After follow-up MRAs, I was cleared for all activity. I no longer am taking anti-coagulants, and I don’t live in constant fear. I take an aspirin a day along with a low-dose of medicine for my mild hypertension. My primary doctor says he doesn’t really know if those are 100% necessary, but no one is willing to cut me loose from those meds at this point! There were no stents or invasive procedures recommended, and I’m told I don’t have any more risk than anyone else at this point.

      As for getting back to normal, I definitely feel that way now. We had a baby over the summer (my stroke occurred about a month after we found out my wife was pregnant) and I plan to be around and healthy for my kids for a very long time! I’m back to cycling and running, although it’s been tough to get back into the rhythm and maintain a regular workout schedule. I do feel that maintaining fitness will be key to preventing another stroke and fending off other age-related maladies.

      I hope this gives you some positivity and that your husband’s recovery will be fast. I’ll be thinking of you all and please do keep in touch.


      • Marc Wouters says

        Hi All,

        I had a dissection on August 7th 2012, followed by a stroke.
        All stroke symptoms dissapeared after 48 hours, except for extreme fatigue.
        I have been on Warfarin ever since and will be for another 4 weeks, then switching to Aspirin daily.
        I am 48 years old, I had been racing a bicycle for the last few years in national championships with guys halve my age and holding my own. With that knowledge the consultant has stopped all my cycling till end of january, I have replaced it with walking and gardening for now.
        My last MRI/MRA showed no significant blood flow through the artery but the tear is healing as expected.
        I hope to get back to my bike in February but wont race the coming season. I will concentrate on distance rather then speed for 2013. There is always 2014 😉
        I have had not a sympton since August 9th, no pain, no headache. A good bit of fatigue during the first few months but this has improved a lot.
        hope this helps……

  97. MC says

    I just read your posts about your vertebral artery dissection and am finding hope. My husband is currently in ICU in our hometown, which luckily is home to a Level I Trauma Center and a Brain and Spine Institute. Our local ER had him CT scanned and transferred within hours of our coming in — it was continuous vomiting that sent us in within 20 minutes of the pain and the “thunderclap” headache — and within 9 hours, he’d had an angiogram and a preliminary diagnosis. A second angiogram yesterday revealed the dissection. Not the news we were hoping for.

    We are currently hoping that the tear will heal on its own as it’s located in a place that will be very risky to operate in. My husband developed hydrocephalus and currently has a catheter in to relieve the pressure, but his doctors are hoping to have that out very soon. Next week is a third angiogram and then we reevaluate what to do next based on the findings. Hopefully, we will find that the tear is healing nicely and no intervention will have to be done. If you read this, please keep us in your thoughts. And thank you for putting your experience out there. It’s a source of hope and comfort during this extremely difficult and stressful time.

    ~ M & M in Austin, TX

    • says

      MC –

      My thoughts are with you and your husband right now. Everyone is different, but I hope with the right meds (likely anti-coagulants) your husband may recover without the need for more invasive treatments.

      Be well, and do keep me posted on how things are going.


  98. Kiera says

    Thanks for posting. I had a dissection/stroke on March 17, 2012. I fond .extra comfort reading your post, OB top of the comfort God provides. I am going to tell my Neuro I want am MRA as well.

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