February 2019 Chiropractic Newsletter
The Connection between Whiplash and Concussions
Chiropractors commonly serve as sports medicine doctors. Our expertise in the musculoskeletal system enables us to train teens and young adults to avoid overuse injuries and maximize flexibility. But there’s one type of injury that is of increasing concern to parents for which chiropractic is an often-overlooked treatment: concussions. Mild traumatic brain injuries are often accompanied by whiplash, making musculoskeletal specialists crucial to recovery.
Brain Injuries and Cerebrospinal Fluid
A concussion occurs when the brain gets jostled. Brains are protected by layers of fluids and membranes that extend down the spinal cord, cushioning them against blows such as those sustained in contact sports or car crashes. Concussions are the mildest form of brain injury, but are subdivided according to severity, with the worst resulting in loss of consciousness. People often don’t feel the result of a concussion for long, but their cognitive function may be affected for several months and they may suffer from headaches. There is mounting evidence that these symptoms are closely tied to injuries in the neck or cervical region.
Consequences of Whiplash
Whiplash is damage to the muscles and tendons of the neck, making it a kind of strain. It commonly causes pain in the neck that can radiate along tense muscles up to the head, in what is known as a cervicogenic headache. But scientists have recently become interested in how swelling in the neck compresses the nerves and cushioning fluid that run through it, creating blockages. Although it is difficult to diagnose a concussion in the absence of unconsciousness, people who have whiplash commonly display symptoms of concussions such as dizziness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears.
Treatment and Prevention
As a result of growing awareness of the correlation between whiplash and concussion symptoms, many medical professionals now recommend using ratings of neck pain and flexibility to help determine when it is safe for athletes to return to play. Chiropractors can also serve an active role in restoring athletes’ health through treatments that don’t rely on drugs or major interventions. Spinal adjustments, traction, acupressure treatments, and soft-tissue mobilization can relieve pressure on cervical facet joints, resulting in decreased concussion-related symptoms.
Doctors are also focusing more heavily on preventing both concussions and whiplash. Athletic equipment should always be well-fitted in good condition. Every warm-up should devote some time to the neck muscles, and people who have suffered whiplash injuries in the past should generally continue to do neck strengthening and stretching exercises. Chiropractic sports doctors also commonly take an interest in nutrition to ensure that athletes are getting sufficient calcium and that their drinks are providing them with nutrients they need for recovery.