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.

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How can I make my WRD less severe?

WRD 2

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).

MRI Truths & Myths

Arthritis

Low back pain is a very common complaint. In fact, it’s the #1 reason for doctor visits in the United States! The economic burden of LBP on the working class is astronomical. Most people can’t afford to be off work for one day, much less a week, month, or more! Because of the popularity of hospital-based TV dramas over the past two decades, many people think getting an MRI of their back can help their doctor fix their lower back problem. Is this a good idea? Let’s take a look!

Patients will often bring in a CD that has an MRI of their lower back to a doctor of chiropractic and ask the ultimate question, “….can you fix me?” Or, worse, “…I think I need surgery.” Sure, it’s quite amazing how an MRI can “slice” through the spine and show bone, soft tissues, disks, muscles, nerves, the spinal cord, and more! Since the low back bears approximately 2/3 of our body’s weight, you can frequently find MANY ABNORMALITIES in a person over 40-50 years old. In fact, it would be quite odd NOT to see things like disk degeneration, disk bulges, joint arthritis, spur formation, etc.!

Hence, the “downside” of having ALL this information is the struggle to determine which finding on the MRI has clinical significance. In other words, where is the LBP coming from? Is it that degenerative disk, bulged disk, herniated disk, or the narrowed canal where the nerve travels? Interestingly, in a recent review of more than 3,200 cases of acute low back pain, those who had an MRI scan performed earlier in their care had a WORSE outcome, more surgery, and higher costs compared with those who didn’t succumb to the temptation of requesting an MRI!

This is not to say MRI, CT scans, and x-rays are not important, as they effectively show conditions like subtle fractures and dangerous conditions like cancer. But for LBP, MRI is often misleading. This is because the primary cause of LBP is “functional” NOT “structural,” so it’s EASY to get railroaded into thinking whatever shows up on that MRI has to be the problem.

Here is how we know this, when we take 1,000 people WITHOUT low back pain between ages 30 and 60 (male or female) and perform an MRI on their lower back, we will find up to 53% will have PAINLESS disk bulges in one or more lumbar disks. Moreover, we will find up to 30% will have partial disk herniations, and up to 18% will have an extruded disk (one that has herniated ALL the way out). Yet, these people are PAIN FREE and never knew they had disk “derangement” (since they have no LBP). When combining all of these possible disk problems together, several studies report that between 57% and 64% of the general population has some type of disk problem without ANY BACK PAIN!

Hence, when a patient with a simple sprain/strain and localized LBP presents with an MRI showing a disk problem, it usually ONLY CONFUSES the patient (and frequently the doctor), as that disk problem is usually not the problem causing the pain!  So DON’T have an MRI UNLESS a surgical treatment decision depends on its findings. That is weakness, numbness, and non-resolving LBP in spite of 4-6 weeks of non-surgical care or unless there is weakness in bowel or bladder control. Remember, the majority of back pain sufferers DO NOT need surgery!

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 back pain, we would be honored to render our services.

Can WRD cause my dizziness?

MVA

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!

Trigger point massage

Session Description

 

A treatment with Bryan is very user friendly. And, no, you don’t have to remove any clothing. However, bringing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or sweats is recommended.

 

The first time you come for a treatment you will be asked to fill out a Client History form. Bryan will go over the information you provide, asking for more detail and discussing the type of pain you are having and its location.

 

The treatment itself involves locating the Trigger Points in the muscle or soft tissue and applying a deep focused pressure to the Point. This will reproduce the pain and the referral pattern that is characteristic of that pain.

 

The treatment will be uncomfortable at first, but as the Trigger Points release, the pain will decrease. The pressure will always be adjusted to your tolerance level. If, at any time, you feel too uncomfortable you can ask Bryan to ease off a bit.

 

Depending on your specific problem, Bryan may also use some stretching and / or range-of-motion techniques, as needed.

 

After treatment, it is usually recommended that the client apply moist heat to the area treated.

 

What is the current “best evidence” in WRD right now?

Up Trap Ext

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!

How do Chiropractic adjustments help my neck pain?

Whiplash 11

We all know what it’s like to have neck pain—whether it’s after a long drive, pinching the phone between the head and shoulder, star-gazing, or from talking to someone who is seated off to the side. There are many causes of neck pain, but the question of the month is, how do chiropractic adjustments help neck pain? Let’s take a look!

Chiropractic, when broken down into its fundamental Greek derivatives, means “hand” (cheir) and “action” (praxis). The technique most often associated with chiropractic is spinal manipulation where a “high velocity, low amplitude” thrust is applied to specific vertebrae in the spine, which does several things: 1) It restores mobility in an area with restricted movement; 2) It stimulates the sensory “neuroreceptors” in joint capsules, which has a muscle relaxing reflex effect; 3) It can affect surrounding neurological structures in certain parts of the spine such as the parasympathetic (cranial & sacral regions) and sympathetic (mid-back) nervous systems, which can have beneficial effects on the digestive system, cardiovascular system, and other body systems not typically thought about when seeking chiropractic care.

Joint manipulation is not new, as it can be traced back to as early as 400 BCE. The profession of chiropractic began in the later 1800s and has grown in popularity ever since. There is now an overwhelming body of evidence that supports spinal manipulation as both a safe and highly effective treatment for neck and back pain, headaches, and many other maladies.

It’s important to note that there are many different types of manual therapies that chiropractors utilize when caring for neck pain patients. There are “low-velocity, low amplitude” or non-thrust techniques that do NOT produce the “crack” that is frequently associated with chiropractic adjustments. The term “mobilization” is often used when referencing these non-thrust methods, and this often incorporates a combination of manual traction (pulling of the neck), left to right and front to back “gliding” movements usually starting lightly and gradually increasing the pressure as tolerated. In many cases, a doctor of chiropractic may utilize a combination of manipulation and mobilization as well as “trigger point therapy” (applying sustained pressure over tight “knots” in muscles), depending on a patient’s needs.