Trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid muscle

The sternocleidomastoid muscles are two strap like muscles located in the front of you neck. They often become overworked from poor sitting posture. Trigger points in these muscles will cause referral pain into the head and around the eye, causing migraine type pain.

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Trigger points in the trapezius muscle.

The trapezius muscle is a large diamond shaped muscle located in your back. This muscle is often overloaded due to poor sitting posture or excessive exercise. When this occurs trigger points will form. These points can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain. Trigger points in the upper traps are a leading cause of headache.

Whiplash; what can I expect?

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Whiplash, or “Whiplash Associated Disorders” or WAD, is the result of a sudden “crack the whip” of the head on the neck due to a slip and fall, sports injury, a violent act, or most commonly, a motor vehicle collision (MVC), particularly a rear-end collision. In describing “what can I expect” after a whiplash injury, one thing is for certain, there are many faces of whiplash, meaning the degree of injury can range from none to catastrophic depending on many factors, some of which are difficult or impossible to identify or calculate. Let’s take a closer look!

Even though the good news is that most people injured in a car crash get better, 10% do not and go on to have chronic pain, of which about half have significant difficulty working and/or doing desired everyday activities. There is a “great debate” as to the way experts describe “chronic whiplash syndrome” (CWS) as well as how these cases should be managed. Some feel there is something PHYSICALLY wrong in the CWS patient, especially if severe neck or head pain persists for more than one year. There is some proof of this as Dr. Nikolai Bogduk from the University of Newcastle in Australia and colleagues have used selective nerve blocks to anesthetize specific joints in the neck to determine exactly where the pain is generated. The patient then has the option to have that nerve cauterized or burned and pain relief can be significant in many cases. Dr. Bogduk and his group admit that these CWS patients have more psychological symptoms, but they feel this is the result of pain, not the CAUSE.

On the other hand, experts such as Dr. Henry Berry from the University of Toronto report the EXACT OPPOSITE. He argues that it’s not JUST the physical injury that has to be dealt with but also the person’s “state of mind.” Dr. Berry states that when stepping back and looking at all the complaints or symptoms from a distance, “…you see these symptoms can be caused by life stress, the illness ‘role’ as a way of adjusting to life, psychiatric disorders, or even [made up by the patient].” Berry contends that it’s important to tell the patient their pain will go away soon, advises NO MORE THAN two weeks of physical therapy, and sends people back to work ASAP.

Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine’s Dr. Michael D. Freeman, whose expertise lay in epidemiology and forensic science, disagrees with Dr. Berry stating that the scientific literature clearly supports the physical injury concept and states, “…the idea that it is a psychological disturbance is a myth that has been perpetuated with absolutely no scientific basis at all.” Dr. Freeman states that 45% of people with chronic neck pain were injured in a motor vehicle crash (which includes three million of the six million of those injured in car crashes every year in the United States).

Here’s the “take home” to consider: 1) CWS occurs in about 10% of rear-end collisions; 2) Some doctors feel the pain is physically generated from specific nerves inside the neck joints; 3) Others argue it’s a combination of psychological factors and care should focus on preventing sufferers from becoming chronic patients.

Many studies report that chiropractic offers fast, cost-effective benefits for whiplash-injured patients with faster return to work times and higher levels of patient satisfaction.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Whiplash, we would be honored to render our services.

Trigger points in the gluteus Maximus muscle.

The gluteus Maximus muscle makes up your buttock. It’s is a powerful hip extensor and thus used heavily during activities such as walking, running, and climbing up stairs. Most atheletes abuse this muscle. When overworked trigger points will form, and these points will cause pain to be felt in the hip, sacrum and the as well as deep in the gluteal area. Litterally a pain in the butt!! Trigger points won’t release on their own and require interventions like trigger point massage.

Can a low speed crash cause injury?

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There is certainly a lot of interest in concussion these days between big screen movies, football, and other sports-related injuries. Concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) are often used interchangeably. Though mTBI is NOT the first thing we think about in a low-speed motor vehicle collision (MVC), it does happen. So how often do MVC-related TBIs occur, how does one know they have it, and is it usually permanent or long lasting?

Here are some interesting statistics: 1) The incidence rate of fatal and hospitalized TBI in 1994 was estimated to be 91/100,000 (~1%); 2) Each year in the United States, for every person who dies from a brain injury, five are admitted to hospitals and an additional 26 seek treatment for TBI; 3) About 80% of TBIs are considered mild (mTBI); 4) Many mTBIs result from MVCs, but little is known or reported about the crash characteristics. 5) The majority (about 80%) of mTBI improve within three months, while 20% have symptoms for more than six months that can include memory issues, depression, and cognitive difficulty (formulating thought and staying on task). Long-term, unresolved TBI is often referred to as “post-concussive syndrome.”

In one study, researchers followed car crash victims who were admitted into the hospital and found 37.7% were diagnosed with TBI, of which the majority (79%) were defined as minor by a tool called Maximum Abbreviated Injury Scale (MAIS) with a score of one or two (out of a possible six) for head injuries. In contrast to more severe TBIs, mild TBIs occur more often in women, younger drivers, and those who were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. Mild TBI is also more prevalent in frontal vs. lateral (“T-bone”) crashes.

As stated previously, we don’t think about our brains being injured in a car crash as much as we do other areas of our body that may be injured—like the neck. In fact, MOST patients only talk about their pain, and their doctor of chiropractic has to specifically ask them about their brain-related symptoms.

How do you know if you have mTBI? An instrument called the Traumatic Brain Injury Questionnaire can be helpful as a screen and can be repeated to monitor improvement. Why does mTBI persist in the “unlucky” 20%? Advanced imaging has come a long way in helping show nerve damage associated with TBI such as DTI (diffuse tensor imaging), but it’s not quite yet readily available. Functional MRI (fMRI) and a type of PET scanning (FDG-PET) help as well, but brain profusion SPECT, which measures the blood flow within the brain and activity patterns at this time, seems the most sensitive.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Whiplash, we would be honored to render our services.

How can I make my WRD less severe?

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Whiplash is really a slang term for the rapid back and forth whipping of the head on the neck, usually associated with motor vehicle accidents. The title “Whiplash Associated Disorders”, or WAD, describes it best because it includes ALL of the MANY signs and symptoms of the disorder.

WAD basically comes in three sizes based on the degree of injury. A WAD I is present when there is pain but no physical examination findings; WAD II occurs when there are exam findings but no neurological loss (numbness or weakness); and WAD III includes loss of neurological function.  There is also a separate WAD level that includes fractures and dislocations (WAD IV).

There are many things that can be done by the patient to assist in the healing process for WAD. The first well-studied recommendation is to “continue with your usual activities.” Try to keep active and not change your routine. The good news is that WAD (especially types I and II) usually resolves without complication, and recovery is even more likely to occur if you don’t deviate much from your routine.

For those whose symptoms are more severe and/or not resolving, mobilization and manipulation of the neck and back are very effective treatment options. In addition to treatments you’d receive in a chiropractic office, there are MANY things you can do at home as “self-help strategies.” Some of these include (“PRICE”):

1)  PROTECT: Though it’s important to continue with your usual daily activities, this is dependent on both the degree of tissue injury and your pain tolerance. So do as many of your usual daily activities as possible, but AVOID those that result in a sharp, lancinating type of pain or those where recovery from the pain is delayed.  Therefore, this category may require modifying your ADLs (activities of daily living). A cervical collar (hard or

soft) should NOT to be used UNLESS you have an unstable injury (fracture or a grade III sprain).

2)  REST: Doing too much is like picking at a cut (which can delay healing) and doing too little can lead to a delayed healing response as well. Staying within reasonable pain boundaries is a good guide.

3) ICE > HEAT: Ice reduces swelling, and your doctor will typically recommend it over applying heat, especially on a recent injury. Heat draws fluids in, and while it may feel good, it can make your symptoms worse.

4)  COMPRESS: We can basically ignore this when referencing neck pain. This pertains better to wrapping an ankle, knee, wrist, or elbow with an elastic compression orthotic or brace.

5)  ELEVATE: This too is meant for the acute stages of an extremity injury like a foot or ankle.

Exercises unique for neck pain in the acute, subacute, and chronic stages of healing are perhaps the most important of the self-help approaches. In the ACUTE phase, try these…

1)  Range of Motion: Once again, stay within “reasonable pain boundaries” as you move your head forwards, backwards, side to side, and rotate left and right. These can be done either with or without LIGHT resistance applied using one or two fingers placed against your head. Limit the repetitions to three slow reps in each direction and emphasize the release of the movement.

2)  Chin/head Glides: Tuck in the chin (think of creating a double or triple chin) followed by poking the chin/head out.

In the SUBACUTE and CHRONIC phases of healing, the importance of strengthening the deep neck flexors cannot be over emphasized. Please refer to last month’s article for a description of this (see #3 of the 6 recommendations listed).

Can WRD cause my dizziness?

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Whiplash, or better termed “Whiplash Associated Disorders” (WAD), is a condition that carries multiple signs and symptoms ranging from neck pain and stiffness to headache, confusion, ringing in the ears, and more. But can WAD cause dizziness? Let’s take a look!

Dizziness is a general term that is used rather loosely by the general population. We’ve all experienced dizziness from time-to-time that is considered “normal,” such as standing up too quickly or while experiencing a rough flight.

Often, dizziness and problems with balance go hand in hand. There are three main organs that control our balance: 1) the vestibular system (the inner ear); 2) the cerebellum (lies in the back of the head); and, 3) the dorsal columns (located in the back part of the spinal cord). In this article, we will primarily focus on the inner ear because, of the three, it’s unique for causing dizziness. Our vision also plays an important role in maintaining balance, as we tend to lose our balance much faster when we close our eyes.

It’s appropriate to first discuss the transient, usually short episode of “normal” lightheadedness associated with rising quickly. This is typically caused by a momentary drop in blood pressure, and hence, oxygen simply doesn’t reach the brain quick enough when moving from sitting to standing. Again, this is normal and termed “orthostatic hypotension” (OH).

However, OH can be exaggerated by colds, the flu, allergy flair-ups, when hyperventilating, or at times of increased stress or anxiety. OH is also associated with the use of tobacco, alcohol, and/or some medications. Bleeding can represent a more serious cause of OH such as with bleeding ulcers or some types of colitis, and less seriously, with menstruation.

The term BPPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, has to do with the inner ear where our semicircular canals are located. The canals lie in three planes and give us a 3D, 360º perspective about where we are in space. The fluid flowing through these canals bends little hair-like projections, which are connected to sensory nerves that tell the brain about our spatial position. If the function of these canals is disturbed, it can mix-up the messages the brain receives, thus resulting in dizziness. Exercises are available on the Internet that can help with BPPV (look for Epley’s and Brandt-Daroff exercises).

DANGEROUS causes of dizziness include: HEART – fainting (passing out) accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, pain or pressure in the back, neck, jaw, upper belly, or in one or both arms, sudden weakness, and/or a fast or irregular heartbeat.  STROKE – sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially if only on one side of the body; drooling, slurred speech, short “black outs,” sudden visual changes, confusion/difficulty speaking, and/or a sudden and severe, “out of the ordinary” headache. CALL 911 (or the number for emergency services if you’re outside the United States) if you suspect you may be having a heart attack or stroke!