Up Close & Personal With Headaches.

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Headaches are REALLY common! In fact, two out of three children will have a headache by the time they are fifteen years old, and more than 90% of adults will experience a headache at some point in their life. It appears safe to say that almost ALL of us will have firsthand knowledge of what a headache is like sooner or later!

Certain types of headaches run in families (due to genetics), and headaches can occur during different stages of life. Some have a consistent pattern, while others do not. To make this even more complicated, it’s not uncommon to have more than one type of headache at the same time!

Headaches can vary in frequency and intensity, as some people can have several headaches in one day that come and go, while others have multiple headaches per month or maybe only one or two a year. Headaches may be continuous and last for days or weeks and may or may not fluctuate in intensity.

For some, lying down in a dark, quiet room is a must. For others, life can continue on like normal. Headaches are a major reason for missed work or school days as well as for doctor visits. The “cost” of headaches is enormous—running into the billions of dollars per year in the United States (US) in both direct costs and productivity losses. Indirect costs such as the potential future costs in children with headaches who miss school and the associated interference with their academic progress are much more difficult to calculate.

There are MANY types of headaches, which are classified into types. With each type, there is a different cause or group of causes. For example, migraine headaches, which affect about 12% of the US population (both children and adults), are vascular in nature—where the blood vessels dilate or enlarge and irritate nerve-sensitive tissues inside the head. This usually results in throbbing, pulsating pain often on one side of the head and can include nausea and/or vomiting. Some migraine sufferers have an “aura” such as a flashing or bright light that occurs within 10-15 minutes prior to the onset while other migraine sufferers do not have an aura.

The tension-type headache is the most common type and as the name implies, is triggered by stress or some type of tension. The intensity ranges between mild and severe, usually on both sides of the head and often begin during adolescence and peak around age 30, affecting women slightly more than men. These can be episodic (come and go, ten to fifteen times a month, lasting 30 min. to several days) or chronic (more than fifteen times a month over a three-month period).

There are many other types of headaches that may be primary or secondary—when caused by an underlying illness or condition. The GOOD news is chiropractic care is often extremely helpful in managing headaches of all varieties and should be included in the healthcare team when management requires a multidisciplinary treatment approach.

Most of know someone who has been affected by headaches. If they are looking for help and information please feel free to contact us at 204-586-8424 or at info@aberdeenchiropractic.com.

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Brain injury after whiplash?

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In a 2010 study, researchers examined MRIs taken from 1,200 patients (600 whiplash and 600 non-whiplash neck pain patients) and noted that those who had sustained whiplash were more likely to have a brain injury than non-whiplash neck pain patients.

The specific type of brain injury found is a form of herniation called Chiari malformation, where the bottom part of the brain (the cerebellum) drops through the opening in the base of the skull called the foramen magnum. Their findings showed an alarming 23% of the whiplash cases studied had this anatomical abnormality.

Dr. Michael Freeman, Dr. Ezriel Kormel, and colleagues collaborated in this effort and evaluated the patients using MRI in both recumbent (laying down) AND upright positions. Interestingly, they found 5.7% and 5.3% of those in the non-whiplash neck pain group and 9.8% and 23.3% in the whiplash group had the Chiari malformation using the recumbent vs. upright MRI positions, respectfully.

Dr. Kormel stated, “This condition can be quite painful and endanger the patient’s health, with symptoms that may include headaches, neck pain, upper extremity numbness and tingling, and weakness. In a few cases, there can also be lower extremity weakness and brain dysfunction.” In a radio interview, he added the advice that ANYONE suffering from whiplash should see a healthcare provider immediately.

This study is important for a number of reasons. First, it revealed that there is often a more serious injury when whiplash occurs than what is initially found. Second, psychological findings like depression, anxiety, and difficulty coping with the decreased ability or inability to be productive at home or work may suggest the presence of an anatomical injury which simply has not yet been found. Third, MRI is frequently ONLY performed in a laying down position. This study didn’t find much difference between laying vs. weight-bearing MRI positions in the non-whiplash neck pain patients but not so in the whiplash neck pain group! In this group, the ability for MRI to detect Chiari malformation/brain injury more than doubled using weight-bearing MRI.

Expanding the last point, since one out of five whiplash patients had a brain injury that is more likely to be detected using a non-traditional upright MRI position, a “new” standard” for the use of MRI in the evaluation of the whiplash patient should be considered. This is especially important in those cases that are non-responsive to quality care or if their doctor had only ordered a recumbent MRI previously.

Doctors of all disciplines should be aware of this study and the need for a more thorough evaluation, especially when a whiplash patient is not responding as one might expect.

Headache & Dizzy. When To Be Concerned.

Last week, we discussed some startling new research that found that lightheadedness upon standing up (orthostatic hypotension) may be more serious than previously thought. This month, we’ll look specifically at headache AND dizziness and if we should we be concerned about this combination of complaints and if so, when?

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University reviewed past medical records of 187,188 patients presenting to over 1,000 emergency departments (EDs) between 2008 and 2009. They found the combination of headache and dizziness—especially in women, minorities, and young patients—was a potential signal of an impending stroke!

Specifically, they reported that 12.7% of people complaining of headache and dizziness were later admitted for stroke and had been misdiagnosed and inappropriately sent home from the ED within the previous 30 days. Patients were told they had a “benign condition” such as inner ear infection or migraine, and in some cases, they weren’t given a diagnosis at all. Slightly less than half of this population had a stroke within seven days and over half had a stoke within the first 48 hours of the initial pre-stroke ED presentation!

The study reported that women were 33% and minorities 20-30% more likely to be misdiagnosed, suggesting gender and racial disparities may play a role. The researchers estimate that doctors miss 15,000 to 165,000 strokes that result in harm to the patient each year.

Studies have found that the early diagnosis and quick treatment of strokes is critical in reducing serious residuals in patients having a transient ischemic attach (TIA), sometimes referred to as a “mini-stroke” or “pre-stroke.” TIAs are often pre-cursors to a more catastrophic stroke leading to death or permanent disability without appropriate treatment.

Again, to put this in perspective, MANY people present to healthcare providers with headaches and dizziness with NO relationship to stroke—about 87%—though it is sometimes not possible to know whether a potentially dangerous problem may arise in the near future. The good news is that it usually does not!

The importance of this study is to alert both healthcare providers AND patients of the potential risk. When in doubt, it’s ALWAYS best to seek out multiple opinions. An MRI may be the best way to confirm the most common type of stroke (according the study reviewed above), as a CT scan may not show the brain changes early on and could lead to false reassurance.

Doctors of chiropractic commonly see patients presenting with headaches and dizziness. When this occurs suddenly, out of the ordinary, and/or at a relatively young age (women > men), it’s better to be safe than sorry and obtain multiple opinions, especially WHEN IN DOUBT!

I get dizzy when I have a headache. Should I worry?

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Dizziness, neck pain, and headaches are very common symptoms that may or may not occur at the same time. Though this interrelationship exists, this month’s article will focus primarily on dizziness, particularly related to dizziness that occurs after standing.

First, it is important to point out that it is VERY common to be light headed or dizzy when standing up too fast, which is typically referred to as orthostatic hypotension (OH). OH is frequently referred to as a benign symptom, but new information may challenge this thought.

Let’s review what happens. When we are lying down, our heart does not have to work as hard as when we are upright; therefore, our blood pressure (BP) is usually lower while we lay in bed. When standing up, blood initially pools in the legs until an increase in blood pressure brings oxygen to the brain. This either resolves or prevents dizziness.

Orthostatic hypotension is defined as a blood pressure drop of >20 mm Hg systolic (the upper number—heart at FULL contraction), 10 mm Hg diastolic (lower number—heart at FULL rest), or both. This typically occurs within seconds to a few minutes after rising to a standing position.

There are two types of OH—delayed OH (DOH) where the onset of symptoms are not immediate but occur within three minutes of standing and “full” OH, which is more serious and occurs immediately upon rising. According to a 2016 study published in the prestigious journal Neurology, researchers reviewed the medical records of 165 people who had undergone autonomic nervous system testing for dizziness. The subjects averaged 59 years of age, and 48 were diagnosed with DOH, 42 with full OH, and 75 subjects didn’t have either condition.

During a ten-year follow-up, 54% of the DOH group progressed to OH, of which 31% developed a degenerative brain condition such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia. Those with initial DOH who also had diabetes were more likely to develop full OH vs. those without diabetes.

The early death rate in this 165 patient group was 29% for those with DOH, 64% with full OH, vs. 9% for those with neither diagnosed condition. The authors point out that those initially diagnosed with DOH who did NOT progress into full OH were given treatment that may have improved their blood pressure.

The authors state that a premature death might be avoided by having DOH and OH diagnosed and properly managed as early as possible. They point out that a prospective study is needed since this study only looked back at medical records of subjects who had nervous system testing performed at a specialized center, and therefore, these findings may not apply to the general population.

The value of this study is that this is the FIRST time a study described OH (or DOH) as a potentially serious condition with recommendations NOT to take OH/DOH lightly or view it as a benign condition. Since doctors see this a lot, a closer evaluation of the patient is in order.

Whiplash and Your Posture

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Posture assessment is a key component of the chiropractic examination, and the posture of the head and neck is especially important for a patient recovering from a whiplash injury. Forward head carriage describes a state in which the head sits more forward on the shoulders than it should. In order for the muscles in the neck and shoulders to keep the head upright, they must work harder. This added strain can increase one’s risk for neck pain and headaches, which is why retraining posture is a key component to the management of neck pain and headaches in patients with or without a history of whiplash.

Forward head carriage also increases the distance between the back of the head and the headrest in the seated position, especially when the seat is reclined. In a rear-end collision, a gap greater than a half an inch between the head rest and the back of the head increases the probability of injury due to the greater distance the head can hyperextend as it rebounds backwards into the headrest.  This makes posture correction of forward head carriage an important aspect of treatment from both a preventative and curative perspective.

So this begs the question, can forward head carriage be corrected?  The simple answer is “yes!” One study evaluated the effects of a 16-week resistance and stretching program designed to address forward head posture and protracted shoulder positioning.

Researchers conducted the study in two separate secondary schools with 130 adolescents aged 15–17 years with forward head and protracted shoulder posture. The control group participated in a regular physical education (PE) program while the experimental group attended the same PE classes with the addition of specific exercises for posture correction. The research ream measured the teens’ shoulder head posture from the side using two different validated methods and tracked symptoms using a questionnaire. The results revealed a significant improvement in the shoulder and cervical angle in the experimental group that did not occur in the control group.

The conclusion of the study strongly supports that a 16-week resistance and stretching program is effective in decreasing forward head and protracted shoulder posture in adolescents.  This would suggest that a program such as this should be strongly considered in the regular curriculum of PE courses since this is such a common problem.

Doctors of chiropractic are trained to evaluate and manage forward head posture with shoulder protraction. This can prove beneficial in both the prevention as well as management of signs and symptoms associated with a whiplash injury.

Chiropractic & Headaches

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According to the World Health Organization, headaches are among the most common disorders of the nervous system affecting an estimated 47% of adults during the past year. Headaches place a significant burden on both quality of life (personal, social, and occupational) and financial health. They are usually misdiagnosed by healthcare practitioners, and in general, are underestimated, under-recognized, and under-treated around the world. So, what about chiropractic and headaches… Does it help?

Suffice it to say, there are MANY studies showing chiropractic care helps headache sufferers. For instance, in a review of past research studies using an “evidence-based” approach, chiropractic treatment of adults with different types of headaches revealed very positive findings! Researchers note that chiropractic care helps those with episodic or chronic migraine headaches, cervicogenic headache (that is, headaches caused by neck problems), and tension-type headaches (chronic more than episodic). There appears to be additional benefit when chiropractic adjustments are combined with massage, mobilization, and/or adding certain types of exercises, although this was not consistently studied. In the studies that discussed adverse or negative effects of treatment, the researchers noted no serious adverse effects.

In patients suffering from athletic injuries, particularly post-concussion headache (PC-HA), chiropractic care can play a very important role in the patient’s recovery. With an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related brain injuries occurring each year, approximately 136,000 involve young high school athletes (although some argue this is “grossly underestimated”).

Several published case studies report significant benefits for post-concussion patients after receiving chiropractic care, some of which included PC-HA from motor vehicle collisions, as well as from slips and falls. For example, one described an improvement in symptoms that included deficits in short-term memory as well as attention problems. In this particular study, a six-year-old boy fell from a slide in the playground, and after 18 months of continuous problems, underwent a course of chiropractic care. After just three weeks of care, his spelling test scores improved from 20% to 80% with even more benefits observed by the eighth week of care!

Another case study looked at a 16-year-old male teenager with a five-week-old football injury who had daily headaches and “a sense of fogginess” (concentration difficulties). He reported significant improvement after the second visit, with near-complete symptom resolution after the fifth visit (within two weeks of care). After seven weeks of care, he successfully returned to normal activities, including playing football.

Dizziness and vertigo are also common residuals from concussion and were present in a 30-year-old woman just three days following a motor vehicle accident. She also complained of headache, neck pain, back pain, and numbness in both arms. The case study noted significant improvement after nine visits within an 18-day time frame.

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 neck pain or headaches, we would be honored to render our services.

What is Whiplash? 

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Whiplash is an injury to the soft-tissues of the neck often referred to as a sprain or strain. Because there are a unique set of symptoms associated with whiplash, doctors and researchers commonly use the term “whiplash associated disorders” or WAD to describe the condition.

WAD commonly occurs as a result of a car crash, but it can also result from a slip and fall, sports injury, a personal injury (such as an assault), and other traumatic causes. The tissues commonly involved include muscle tendons (“strain”), ligaments and joint capsules (“sprains”), disk injuries (tears, herniation), as well as brain injury or concussion—even without hitting the head!

Symptoms vary widely but often include neck pain, stiffness, tender muscles and connective tissue (myofascial pain), headache, dizziness, sensations such as burning, prickly, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, and referred pain to the shoulder blade, mid-back, arm, head, or face. If concussion occurs, additional symptoms include cognitive problems, concentration loss, poor memory, anxiety/depression, nervousness/irritability, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and more!

Whiplash associated disorders can be broken down into three categories: WAD I includes symptoms without any significant examination findings; WAD II includes loss of cervical range of motion and evidence of soft-tissue damage; and WAD III includes WAD II elements with neurological loss—altered motor and/or sensory functions. There is a WAD IV which includes fracture, but this is less common and often excluded.

Treatment for WAD includes everything from doing nothing to intensive management from multiple disciplines—chiropractic, primary care, physical therapy, clinical psychology, pain management, and specialty services such as neurology, orthopedics, and more. The goal of treatment is to restore normal function and activity participation, as well as symptom management.

The prognosis of WAD is generally good as many will recover without residual problems within days to weeks, with most people recovering around three months after the injury. Unfortunately, some are not so lucky and have continued neck pain, stiffness, headache, and some develop post-concussive syndrome. The latter can affect cognition, memory, vision, and other brain functions. Generally speaking, the higher the WAD category, the worse the prognosis, although each case MUST be managed by its own unique characteristics. If the injury includes neurological loss (muscle strength and/or sensory dysfunction like numbness, tingling, burning, pressure), the prognosis is often worse.

Chiropractic care for the WAD patient can include manipulation, mobilization, and home-based exercises, as well as the use of anti-inflammatory herbs (ginger, turmeric, proteolysis enzymes (bromelain, papain), devil’s claw, boswellia extract, rutin, bioflavonoid, vitamin D, coenzyme Q10, etc.) and dietary modifications aimed at reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

* 83% of those patients involved in an MVA will suffer whiplash injury and 50% will be symptomatic at 1 year.
* 90% of patients with neurologic signs at onset may be symptomatic at 1 year.
* 25- 80% of patients who suffer a whiplash injury will experience late-onset dizziness
* Clinicians should be observant for radiographic signs of instability, including interspinous widening, vertebral subluxation, vertebral compression fracture, and loss of cervical lordosis.
* Horizontal displacement of greater than 3.5 mm or angular displacement of more than 11 degrees on flexion/extension views suggests instability.