He barely hit me; why does it hurt?

You may have heard the comment, “If there’s no damage to the car, then there’s no injury.” Unfortunately, that does not always seem to be the case.

There are MANY factors that affect the dynamics of a collision and whether or not injury occurs. A short list includes: vehicle type and design, speed, angle of collision, momentum, acceleration factors, friction, kinetic and potential energy, height, weight, muscle mass, seat back angle and spring, head position upon impact, etc.

Consider Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This law applies to a car accident at any speed. Using the analogy of hitting a pool ball into the corner pocket straight on, when the cue ball stops, its momentum is transferred to the target ball which accelerates at the same speed…hopefully into the corner pocket!

This example is not quite the same as an automobile collision because the energy transfer is very efficient due in part to the two pool balls not deforming (crushing or breaking) on impact with one another. If either ball did deform, more energy absorption would occur and the acceleration of the second ball would be lower.
In fact, in the United States, vehicle bumpers are tested at 2.5 mph with impact equipment of similar mass with the test vehicle’s brakes disengaged and the transmission in neutral. National Highway Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicle safety standards demand that no damage should occur to the car in this scenario.
However, energy transfer occurs very quickly and with a greater amount of force when there is no vehicle deformation (damage). As a result, a greater amount of energy (described as G-force) is directly transferred to the occupants inside the vehicle—increasing the risk of injury. A 1997 Society of Automobile Engineers article provided an example in which the same 25 mph (12 m/s) collision resulted in a five-times greater force on the occupants of the vehicle when the crush distance of the impact fell from 1 meter to .2 meters.
So be aware that even low-speed impacts can still place quite a bit of force on your body, even if the bumper of your car doesn’t have a scratch on it.
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Why am I so dizzy after my whiplash?

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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 Canada) if you suspect you may be having a heart attack or stroke!

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.

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.