Is there a relationship between concussion and whiplash injury? Recently, reports about injuries that professional and collegiate sports sustain which can lead to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) have received a lot of attention. A low speed rear impact car accident produces force equal to that of getting hit by an NFL linebacker. Interestingly, we don’t seem to give these types of injuries as much attention. Perhaps we’re not looking at the complete picture here.
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Dizziness or “seeing stars”
- Ringing in the ears
Whiplash Injury and Concussion
Let’s think about these kinds of injuries. If you are struck with enough stress to cause a concussion, would it impact the rest of your body? Of course it would. However, we often overlook other potential types of injury, particularly if no injury is visibly present. We tend to strictly focus on treating the symptoms of the concussion. Although I still remember the days of “no blood, no foul,” we now know that you can have an injury with no external evidence, or at least the evidence may be overlooked. What area is being most overlooked in these young men and women? We would have to say the neck.
The Real Impact
Whether it’s a car accident (at any speed), sports injury, or just diving into the pool on a sunny day, neck injuries may be overlooked as a link to concussion-like symptoms. The impact from these actions cause stress down the length of your spine, commonly called axial loading. This in turn causes a loss of structural integrity in your spine, causing bones to move incorrectly or out of place.
Spinal motion can be affected, consequently causing more stress on the muscles, ligaments, and nerves around your spine. Ultimately, your spinal cord gets pulled out of its normal position. In severe cases, the spinal cord can pull down on your brain stem. Since it doesn’t take much pressure on the nerve to cause problems, you might experience a cascade of symptoms which arise as secondary effects from the primary structural shift in the spine. Although these secondary effects may mirror the symptoms of a concussion, traditional concussion treatment may not alleviate the symptoms.
Treating the Spine
Ultimately, care and treatment for one’s spine is critical. We will all endure some sort of trauma in our lives. But those who are constantly exposed to repeated stress and trauma could experience a host of secondary effects, both noticeable and unnoticed. By treating the spine, we can ultimately ensure that even when there is repetitive impact and stress, we are in a greater position to keep our whole system functioning properly.
For example, when we look at athletes like Lebron James and Tom Brady, we recognize their longevity comes from a team of health professionals to keep them at the top of their game, on and off season. Likewise, Roger Craig never missed a game in eight years because of his chiropractor. Getting checked for a neurostructural shift of your spine is easy, and often results in improved performance beyond just the injury that brings most people into our office, including improved energy, balance, and coordination and better quality of life overall. Above all, if you are suffering, the first step to improvement is to determine whether you have a neurostructural shift.