What evidence do we have of whiplash?

Cervical Strain

Whiplash, or WAD (Whiplash Associated Disorders), refers to a neck injury where the normal range of motion is exceeded, resulting in injury to the soft-tissues (hopefully with no fractures) in the cervical region. There are a LOT of factors involved that enter into the degree of injury and length of healing time. Let’s take a closer look!

Picture the classic rear-end collision. The incident itself may be over within 300 milliseconds (msec), which is why it’s virtually impossible to brace yourself effectively for the crash as a typical voluntary muscle contraction takes two to three times longer (800-1000 msec) to accomplish.

In the first 50 msec, the force of the rear-end collision pushes the vehicle (and the torso of the body) forwards leaving the head behind so the cervical spine straightens out from its normal “C-shape” (or lordosis). By 75-100 msec, the lower part of the neck extends or becomes more C-shaped while the upper half flexes or moves in an opposite direction creating an “S” shape to the neck. Between 150-200msec, the whole neck hyper extends and the head may hit the head rest IF the headrest is positioned properly. In the last 200-300 msec, the head is propelled forwards into flexion in a “crack the whip” type of motion.

Injury to the neck may occur at various stages of this very fast process, and many factors determine the degree of injury such as a smaller car being hit by a larger car, the impact direction, the position of the head upon impact (worse if turned), if the neck is tall and slender vs. short and muscular, the angle and “springiness” of the seat back and relative position of the headrest, dry vs. wet/slippery pavement, and airbag deployment, just to name a few.

Some other factors that can predict recovery include: limited neck motion, the presence of neurological loss (nerve specific muscle weakness and/or numbness/tingling), high initial pain levels (>5/10 on a 0-10 scale), high disability scores on questionnaires, overly fearful of harming oneself with usual activity and/or work, depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress, poor coping skills, headaches, back pain, widespread or whole body pain, dizziness, negative expectation of recovery, pending litigation, catastrophizing, age (older is worse), and poor pre-collision health (both mental and physical).

Research shows the best outcomes occur when patients are assured that most people fully recover and when patients stay active and working as much as possible. Studies have shown it’s best to avoid prolonged inactivity and cervical collars unless under a doctor’s orders. It’s also a good idea to gradually introduce exercises aimed at improving range of motion, postural endurance, and motor control provided doing so keeps the patient within reasonable pain boundaries. Chiropractic manipulation restores movement in fixed or stuck joints in the back and neck and has been found to help significantly with neck pain and headaches, particularly for patients involved in motor vehicle collisions. A doctor of chiropractic may also recommend using a cervical pillow, home traction, massage, and other therapies as part of the recovery process.

It is important to be aware that fear of normal activity and not engaging in usual activities and work can delay healing and promote chronic problems and long-term disability. It’s suggested patients avoid opioid medication use due to the addictive problems with such drugs. Ice and anti-inflammatory herbs or nutrients (like ginger, turmeric, and bioflavonoids) are safer options. Your doctor of chiropractic can guide you in this process!


Have you Been Told You Have TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a term used to describe a group problems that cause pain in the temporomandibular joint, also called the TMJ. These problems can arise from the muscles around the joint, the disc within the joint or the bony portion of the joint itself. Imbalances between the muscles that open and close your jaw are the most common culprit.

Up to 25% of the population will suffer with TMD symptoms. Most patients are 20-50 years old and the condition is 2-3 times more common in females. Typical symptoms include: jaw clicking, limited mouth opening, possible jaw locking and pain. Chewing and eating usually make your symptoms more noticeable. TMD pain is generally described as an “ache” located in front of your ear canal but may also refer to other areas of your face, head, neck and shoulders. TMD patients often suffer from headaches.

TMD is more common in people who clench their jaw or grind their teeth, especially at night. Bad posture and emotional stress are contributors to this problem. You are three times more likely to suffer with TMD if you have been involved in a “whiplash” accident.

Conservative treatments, like those provided by our office, have been shown to be as effective as any surgery for most patients with TMD. Treatment is simple, focusing on “massaging” tightness out of the jaw muscles, restoring movement to any restricted joints (including your neck and upper back), and prescribing exercises to improve flexibility.

You should avoid aggravating activities like chewing gum or eating “rubbery” foods. Limit excessive talking. A custom fitted mouth guard may be prescribed to help minimize grinding & clenching and promote relaxation of your jaw muscles at night. Patients with night-time symptoms should avoid stressful activity before bedtime and try to sleep in a “neutral” position. In some cases, stress management techniques, like biofeedback, can assist you in learning how to relax your jaw muscles.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome…. Ever heard of it?

Your cubital tunnel is the groove on the inside of your elbow, also called the “funny bone.” The funny part about the funny bone is that it is not actually a bone but rather a nerve, called the ulnar nerve. Your ulnar nerve begins in your neck and passes through the cubital tunnel on its way to your hand.

When you flex your elbow, the ulnar nerve is required to both stretch and slide through your cubital tunnel. If your ulnar nerve is “stuck” in the tunnel and does not glide when you flex your elbow, this leads to traction and irritation of the nerve. This is called “cubital tunnel syndrome.” The nerve may also be irritated from direct compression, like leaning your elbow on the edge of a desk or from arthritic spurs. Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most common nerve compression problem in the arm, behind carpal tunnel syndrome.

Irritation of the ulnar nerve in the cubital tunnel causes pain, numbness or tingling that radiates from your elbow into your fourth and fifth fingers. Your symptoms can vary from a vague increased sensitivity to pain. The symptoms are common at night and are often progressive over time. In severe cases, you may begin to lose grip strength and fine muscle control.

Cubital tunnel syndrome is commonly seen in baseball, tennis and racquetball players. Workers who keep their elbows flexed such as holding a tool or telephone, or those who press the ulnar nerve against a hard surface like a desk, are at an increased risk for this disorder. Cubital tunnel syndrome affects men three to eight times as often as women and is more common in those who have diabetes or are overweight.

You should try to avoid prolonged elbow flexion or direct pressure over your elbow. Our office may prescribe a nighttime elbow splint that limits flexion.

The Bird Dog

Bird Dog

Today we are going to look at one of the most effective exercises to protect your lumbar spine from discogenic injury, the bird dog. A great way to work on both posterior chain and rotational stability, the bird dog is safe, effective and simple.

  • Get on your hands and knees (four point position) with your knees and hands, hip and shoulders width apart.
  • Your back is in neutral position (slightly arched) and your chin must be tucked in.
  • Activate your lower abdominals (transversus abdomini) by bringing your belly button inward and by activating your pelvic floor muscles 20 to 30% of maximal contraction.
  • Maintain a steady abdominal breathing while you simultaneously lift one leg backwards and the opposite arm overhead keeping your back in neutral position.
  • Return to the initial position and repeat with the other leg and arm.

2 sets of 10 reps as part of your regular core/stability routine will have you well on your way to a life-proof low back!

Image and instructions from physiotec.ca 

Is Surgery Always Required?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most common peripheral entrapment neuropathy—that is, it’s the most common place to trap a nerve in the extremities (arms or legs). CTS affects 6-11% of adults in the general population, and it occurs in women more often than men. The cause is often difficult to determine but the most common reasons can include trauma, repetitive maneuvers, certain diseases, pregnancy, being over the age of 50, and obesity.

So, is surgery the only answer? The short answer is NO! In fact, in a recent randomized clinical trial published in the Journal of Pain, researchers observed similar improvements in function when they compared the outcomes of patients who underwent surgery vs. those who received manual therapies (such as those performed several times a day at chiropractic clinics around the world) at both six months and one year later. The improvements included increased strength, function, and decreased hypersensitivity in both the surgical and non-surgical groups. Interestingly, the manual therapy group did BETTER at the one and three month assessments when compared with the surgical group (again, with no difference at six and twelve months)!

The median nerve, the culprit behind CTS, starts in the neck and travels down through the shoulder, elbow, forearm, and finally through the carpal tunnel, which is made up of eight small carpal bones that form the arch of the bridge. Entrapment of the median nerve occurs when the normally tight quarters within the carpal tunnel combine with the inflamed nine sheathed muscle tendons that push the nerve into the floor of the tunnel (a ligament), which results in CTS! The goal of therapy—both surgical and manual therapy—is to reduce the pressure within the tunnel and free up the compression of the median nerve.

Manual therapies focus on joint mobilization and manipulation to reduce joint fixations, muscle release techniques in the forearm and hand, stretching techniques, and at-home exercises that emphasize a similar stretch, the night brace, and management of any underlying contributing factor. These “underlying factors” might include diabetes, hypothyroid, taking birth control pills, weight management, and inflammatory arthritis.


CTS SUrgery

Trigger points in the pectoralis Major muscle.

The pectoralis major or “pecs” is commonly thought of as the chest muscle. It originates on the clavicle, sternum, costal cartilage , and the external oblique aponeurosis. It inserts on the intertubercular groove of the humerus. Its main actions are to adduct the shoulder and to internally rotate the humerus. This muscle gets chronically shortened by a rounded shoulder forward posture such as from prolonged sitting. Tightness in this muscle can cause strain in the rhomboids and traps. When trigger points form in this muscle they refer pain into the anterior shoulder, as well as the anterior chest and medial aspect of the arm. Trigger points in the pecs can also cause nipple hypersensitivity. Trigger points in the left pec muscle can mimic heart pain.