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Recovery progress after stroke and vertebral artery dissection

This is an update about my recovery at 8 weeks after a vertebral artery dissection and stroke with images from my latest MRA.

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.

781 replies on “Recovery progress after stroke and vertebral artery dissection”

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.

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!

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!

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!!

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!

Hi Emily! You poor dear to have suffered so much- esp postpartum. I feel for all the woman who have to go thru this in postpartum- truly the worst time for an illness ever. My heart goes out to you all. Glad they figured out about the VAD before too much damage was done. Sounds like you are healing nicely. Try to relax the worst is over, you will heal and life will go on. I remember being in the ER and my worst fear was the thought of leaving my young children behind. Its every parents worst nightmare. Its traumatic. It will take a while for you to recover mentally even if you body heals quickly and perfectly. Two years out I still have strange symptoms that leave the doctors shrugging but I’m finally feeling like I can turn the page on this chapter. I still worry from time to time; but refuse to obsess. I believe that the turning point is individual but will happen to us all in this forum. God bless all of you out there that are just beginning your path with this. It most certainly does get better.

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.

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.

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


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. 🙂


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

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.

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,

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

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!

Good EVENING ! Thank you again Robert, I did see one of my neurosurgeons today said look good just keep an eye on back of head for bleeding like ,so im totally baffled again TEST LOOK GOOD BUT KEEP MY EYES ON HEAD FOR ???? OMG IM SICK OF ALL THIS… NOW I Banged my leg have a big black and blue small lump grrrrrrrrrr.. prolly from plavix and aspirin
maybe sun will shine tomorrow
sorry this is all making me nervous

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.

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.

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.

Chad- please consider at some point when you feel better ( took me a full year to take that extra step of testing) getting your renal arteries scanned at an FMD center. Its pretty rare for a guy to have FMD but it causes high blood pressure and dissections. Glad your healing well:)

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!)!!

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.

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!

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.

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,

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?

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.

Hi Nancy- FMD is considered a rare disorder but lots of people with dissections have it. Lots of people without dissections have it. Many times people can have it and be symptom free. Its not entirely positive yet, if its genetic or not ( about 10 % chance of passing it on to your kids, which is pretty low), and it effects mainly women ( 90%). Make sure you go to an FMD clinic for diagnosis and treatment- even if you have to travel to get there. It makes a WORLD of difference. The best known ones are in NYC and Cleveland Clinic. They scan all arteries one time to look for issues and then follow up to look for changes which hardly happen because its a stable disease- its not going to change much if any within the course of your lifetime. Many people have it in carotid and renal too. Renal needs to be monitored for blood pressure and kidney function purposes which can be treated. I see Dr. Olin in NYC and he is amazing. He is honestly the smartest and kindest physician I have ever met before in my life .The FMD clinics can handle the treatment and care for both your VAD and renal issues. Good luck with it!

Leah, I think I remember reading a prior comment from you that your dissection was at V3 and V4 and that you started eating dark chocolate to assist with the healing. Did your VAD end up healing?

Hi Storm- My VAD was right up where the dura is. I think that’s V3. Anyway, after 2 years there is the possibility that it has completely healed! My last scan at the FMD clinic showed that it may be gone. Not totally sure though, the imaging wasn’t done at the best hospital ( one in my home state), so it could have been missed, but I’m happy anyway about the possibility of it being maybe GONE. I use 72% or higher cacao almost every day. The darker the better. No milk chocolate. Just a small square or two per day. I read a lot about the healing benefits in the heart arteries after surgeries and how it promotes better blood flow in the brain and relaxes arteries and thought why not? Of course I’m not a doctor and the chocolate could have had zero to do with it, but I just got so tired of feeling so helpless that I started studying the effects of different things in the body. Chocolate was incorporated into my lifestyle because it tastes good and is beneficial.

Thank you, Leah! I’m praying you’re healed. Thank you for being so open with everyone about what you’ve gone through. Your posts and the posts of others have truly help me keep calm during this. Thank you, friend.

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.

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 .

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.

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

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?

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.



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.


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

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.


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 !

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.

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.


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.

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

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.


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.

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!

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!


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).


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

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

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

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.

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


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.


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!

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,

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.

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.


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.

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.

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!!!

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.


Hi Dan,

I am experiencing something similar to what you had. Feel pressure at the sides/back of my head when I do my workout.

I had a VAD, followed by a mild stroke 6 weeks ago, back to work 5 weeks ago.

I would really appreciate it, if you could share how is your recovery progress so far regarding this pressure issue.

Alex S

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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!

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!


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?

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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.


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. 🙁

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,

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.

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). 🙂


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.

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!


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!



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.


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

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.

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.


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!

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!


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

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.


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?

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.

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.

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.


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……

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

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.


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.

Hi Anthony, I was in the gym when I got my dissections….or at least that what I think caused them. I was in a spin class that did toning too. I think doing sit ups with a 10 lb weight over my head did me in.

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