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The Role of Neck-Specific Exercises for Whiplash Recovery

21 Nov

The cervical spine relies heavily on muscular support, particularly from the deep muscles in the front and back of the neck. Some experts estimate that up to 70% of the stability of the cervical spine arises from these deep neck muscles, particularly those in front of the spine. Studies have demonstrated that the rapid acceleration-deceleration forces that are placed on the neck during a motor vehicle collision can injure these deep neck muscles. Indeed, electromyographic (EMG) testing conducted on WAD patients has shown that those with higher pain intensity also had reduced deep muscle function in both the front and back of the spine. Treatment guidelines for non-specific neck pain recommend incorporating neck-specific exercises into the treatment process. But what about for WAD patients with neck pain?

A 2018 study that involved 26 patients with chronic WAD (symptoms lasting longer than three months) evaluated the role of neck-specific exercises (such as cranio-cervical flexion—tucking in the chin and approximating the chin toward the chest while looking straight ahead without bending the head forward) had in  improving muscle performance, disability, and pain intensity over the course of a three-month time frame.

After three months, the researchers used a special type of diagnostic ultrasound to measure function in one large superficial muscle and two deep muscles that all reside in the front of the neck. Investigators observed that the participants in the neck-specific exercises (NSE) group experienced significant improvements with respect to muscle function, disability, and pain intensity that were not observed among those in a “wait list” group who served as controls.

Here’s where it gets more interesting… At the three-month point, the members of the control group were added to the NSE group, and three months later, the researchers observed that these participants experienced the same improvements that they previously noted in the first NSE group!  This study supports the need for specific neck exercises to reduce pain and disability and improve function.

When the deep muscles are injured, it’s common for the body to recruit superficial muscles to help stabilize the body and maintain posture. While this can protect the deep muscles from further injury in the short term, it can decondition these muscles over time and allow fatty deposits to infiltrate its tissue. This helps to explain why exercises are so important in the recovery process from musculoskeletal injuries, especially since there’s research that says that up to half of WAD patients will still experience pain and disability a year after their accident. This underscores the importance of seeking treatment for WAD as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk for chronicity and while the chances for full recovery are greatest.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

The Link Between Whiplash and Fibromyalgia

24 Oct

It’s estimated that up to 50% of whiplash associated disorder (WAD) patients will develop chronic symptoms such as neck and upper back pain, headache, dizziness, emotional and cognitive disturbance, referred pain, and physical dysfunctions. Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that is also characterized by long-term, persistent symptoms such as chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbance, cognitive disturbance, fatigue, and physical dysfunctions. Both WAD and FM patients share similar chronic, debilitating signs and symptoms. Why is this so?

In one study, researchers evaluated cognitive loss, central sensitization, and health-related quality of life (QoL) in chronic WAD patients, FM patients, and individuals without any known chronic conditions to serve as a control group. Participants in both the WAD and FM group exhibited significant cognitive impairment, central sensitization, and decreased health-related QoL, suggesting that brain injury plays a significant role in each condition.

In WAD injuries, the mechanism of injury causing cognitive loss (the brain’s inability to process information) appears to arise from the brain slamming into the inside of the skull. In a classic rear-end collision, the brain first hits the back of the brain casing followed by the rebounding into the front of the skull, causing a concussion.

A 2011 study found that among 58 women who had been admitted to the emergency room for a whiplash injury, three met the clinical criteria for FM three years later. Another 2011 study found that among 326 WAD patients with persistent neck pain lasting longer than three months, up to 14% met the criteria for FM. Based on these findings, it’s clear that the whiplash process could be a strong contributing factor for developing FM. Indeed, a 2015 study that looked at the health histories of 939 FM patients identified trauma as a precipitating factor in 27% of cases.

While we typically associated whiplash with motor vehicle collisions, such injuries can also occur in sport collisions, physical assaults, and falling. It’s possible that a greater percentage of FM cases may be due to trauma the participant simply wasn’t able to recall. Emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder have also been associated with an elevated risk for FM. The disease process for FM isn’t entirely understood, and in cases when the cause is not known, it’s possible the condition could be the result of a cumulation of factors, including WAD.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that chronic WAD and FM are potentially debilitating conditions and seeking treatment after a trauma, such as a motor vehicle collision, is important for mitigating the risk for chronic symptoms. The good news is that both FM and WAD patients respond very favorably to chiropractic care!  Doctors of chiropractic are trained to examine, diagnose, and treat those presenting with FM and WAD. Studies have reported that the inclusion of spinal manipulation enhances recovery in acute and chronic WAD, as well as FM.

 

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

The Link Between Whiplash and Jaw Pain

23 Sep

While neck pain is most commonly associated with whiplash associated disorder (WAD), patients often report jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain following a car accident, sport injury, or slip and fall.

Common symptoms associated with temporomandibular disorders (TMD) include pain in the jaw joint area (in front of the ear), neck and shoulder pain, ear area pain with chewing or yawning, a “stuck” or locked feeling, and clicking, popping, or grating sounds with jaw movements. Patients with TMD may also feel like their teeth don’t fit well together, or report toothaches, headaches, dizziness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

An MRI (magnetic resonant imaging) study of TMD following a WAD injury revealed joint effusion or swelling and/or disk displacement in more than half of the participants, along with alterations in the thickness of the lateral pterygoid muscle (LPM) that helps open the mouth. Studies have shown that rear-end collisions can result in trauma to the muscles in the area of the TMJ, along with its joint capsule and fibroelastic disk. Post-traumatic muscle imbalance can then perpetuate the problem, leading to chronic TMD.

A 2018 study found that patients with TMD following a whiplash injury (wTMD) had higher pain intensity scores, worse exam findings, worse function, and greater muscle atrophy in the LPM than patients whose TMD resulted from another cause. The patients with wTMD were also more likely to be affected by stress and headaches than the other TMD patients.

The authors concluded that TMD is a common WAD-related injury, and MRI findings of disk displacement and LPM alterations are often found together. They also point out that TMD from whiplash appears to involve a different mechanism than TMD from other types of trauma or no trauma.

Doctors of chiropractic are trained in the assessment and treatment of WAD, including TMD, which often involves a multi-faceted approach that includes manipulation, mobilization, and soft tissue techniques (myofascial release, contract-hold, trigger point therapy, muscle energy, and more).

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Whiplash and Tinnitus

22 Aug

While tinnitus is commonly associated with a ringing sound in the ears, it can also involve a buzzing, hissing, or whistling noise. The sound can be intermittent or constant and can change in volume. The noise often intensifies in a quiet room when background noise is absent, such as at night, which can interfere with sleep. Approximately 50 million adults in the United States are affected by tinnitus, and up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss. Though tinnitus can be due to many different causes, trauma-induced tinnitus from motor vehicle collisions is common.

Studies have demonstrated that an 8 mph (12.87 kmph) rear-end collision can result in 4.5g of neck acceleration, which can cause a sprain/strain injury to the neck that can lead to the cluster of symptoms that characterize whiplash associated disorders (WAD) such as neck pain, back pain, mental fog, headache, balance disturbance, depression, anxiety, tinnitus, and more.

Additionally, this process can also accelerate the head, essentially slamming the brain against the inside of the skull, followed by a rebound into the opposite side of the skull. This can lead to bruising on the brain, which is commonly called a concussion but is more formally known as a mild-traumatic brain injury (mTBI). This type of injury shares many symptoms with WAD, including tinnitus. If symptoms persist, the condition is known as post-concussive syndrome (PCS).

This has led researchers to speculate that WAD and mTBI often co-occur, and treatment to address cervical spine dysfunction commonly observed in WAD patients may also help patients with PCS. In a 2015 study involving five patients with diagnosed PCS, researchers observed that when the patients received manual therapy treatment to address cervical spine dysfunction, they reported improvements in several symptoms associated with PCS.

Doctors of chiropractic are highly trained to manage cervical spine dysfunction, a common sequela following a motor vehicle collision. Frequently, the many symptoms associated with WAD, including tinnitus, improve once the dysfunction is managed through manual therapies applied to the muscles and joints in the neck. If you are suffering from the aftermath of an MVC, please see your chiropractor!

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Reducing the Risk of Car Accident Injury

22 Jul

While doctors of chiropractic enjoy helping their patients get better, the preference is to avoid injury in the first place, and if that’s not possible, to reduce the risk for serious injury. This is especially important when it comes to car accidents, as whiplash associated disorders (WAD) injuries can persist for months to years and greatly reduce one’s ability to carry out their normal activities.

One of the most important steps you can take is to focus on the road while driving and eliminate distractions, which includes not texting while driving. In one study, researchers observed that even using hands-free functions increased the risk a driver would drift into another lane, drive too closely to the car in front of them, and be less responsive to changing road conditions. Other common distractions include fiddling with the radio, eating, reading (yes, people do this!), talking with other passengers (especially if you turn your head to look at them), and driving while intoxicated, while under the influence of legal/illicit drugs or medications, or while tired.

Strategies to stay safe on the road include taking regular breaks (if driving a long distance), keeping your eyes moving (check mirrors frequently), not speeding or driving faster than road conditions allow, following traffic rules, using your signals, avoiding night and bad weather driving, heeding caution signs, and keeping your car properly serviced (including making sure there is enough air in your tires and that your tires are in good condition). Additionally, it’s important to respond quickly to vehicle recalls. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid an accident. Wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk you’ll be ejected from the vehicle in the event of an accident (which almost certainly results in fatality) or suffer more serious injuries. Making sure your head rest is properly adjusted can also reduce your risk for a serious head/neck injury.

Automobile manufacturers continue to implement safety improvements in their vehicles. For example, a review of data between 1995 to 2016 supports that vehicle safety design improvements reduced the frequency of rollover crashes from 7% to 3.5% when comparing 1995-1999 vs. 2010-2016 model year vehicles, respectively. Starting in 1997, General Motors (GM) introduced high retention seats in their new model cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks. A recent study compared the 1991 to 2000 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data to the 2001-2008 FARS data to evaluate the impact of high retention seats. The data show that in rear impacts, high retention seats reduced the fatality risk from 27.1% to 16.6% and the risk of serious injury by 70.2%.

If you’re involved in a car accident, even a low-speed collision, it’s important to be evaluated by a doctor of chiropractic to ensure any soft-tissue injuries that result are properly treated as soon as possible in order to reduce your risk for ongoing pain and disability.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Multi-Modal Care for Whiplash Patients

20 Jun

The term whiplash associated disorders (WAD) describes a constellation of symptoms that includes (partial list) pain, stiffness/limited motion, dizziness, headache, depression/anxiety, and brain-fog. The condition is associated with accelerations/deceleration events like car accidents, sports collisions, or slip and falls. Such injuries are classified into four categories: WAD I (no/minimal complaints/injury), WAD II (soft-tissue injury – muscle/tendon and/or ligament injury), WAD III (nerve injury), WAD IV (fracture). More than 85% of those involved in a motor vehicle collision (MVC) experience neck pain, with 29-40% recovering within a little more than three months and about 23% still not having recovered after one year.

A 2016 systematic review generated treatment guidelines for patients with WAD and/or neck associated disorders (NAD) in the context of both a recent injury and for cases in which pain has persisted for longer than three months. Importantly, these guidelines were formed with input from several types of healthcare providers, including doctors of chiropractic, medical doctors, and physical therapists.

For recent-onset neck pain (0-3 months), the authors recommend multimodal care (multiple types); manipulation or mobilization; range-of-motion home exercise or multimodal manual therapy (for grades I-II NAD); adding supervised graded strengthening exercise (grade III NAD); and multimodal care (grade III WAD).

For persistent neck pain (more than 3 months), the review recommends multimodal care or stress self-management; manipulation with soft tissue therapy; high-dose massage; supervised group exercise; supervised yoga; supervised strengthening exercises or home exercises (grades I-II NAD); multimodal care or practitioner’s advice (grades I-III NAD); and supervised exercise with advice or advice alone (grades I-II WAD). For patients with persistent neck and shoulder pain, evidence supports mixed supervised and unsupervised high-intensity strength training or advice alone (grades I-III NAD).

The term, “multi-modal care” is defined as a grouping of manipulation, mobilization, and soft tissue techniques (myofascial release, contract-hold, trigger point therapy, muscle energy, and more). Multi-modal care may also incorporate the use of hot or cold packs, assisted stretching, advice to stay active or modify activity, and neck/shoulder exercise training. Doctors of chiropractic often take a multi-modal approach when treating patients with musculoskeletal pain, including those with whiplash associated disorders.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.