Whiplash and Concussion in Car Accidents
Here’s the situation. You’ve been in a car accident. Someone rear-ended you. You don’t remember if you hit your head or not, but you don’t think you did. You don’t have memory exactly of the crash and you’re not sure if you blacked out or not. Immediately you felt dazed, tightness and pain in your head and neck, slightly dizzy, but overall thought you were ok.
Fast forward about a week or two. You’re now feeling low back pain, left shoulder pain (from the seatbelt), moderate to severe neck pain, chronic daily headaches, you’re having some vision issues that are hard to describe, your focus is degrading, your sleep is worsening, your energy is poor, and you’re becoming sensitive to light and sounds.
This is starting to sound like a concussion.
You go to the doctor and end up at a chiropractor’s office for the pain. A few weeks go by as they’re adjusting your spine and using electrical stimulation and some gentle stretching and you start feeling more pain, more dizziness, more nausea, and now you’re developing emotional instability, you’re starting to cry for no reason, starting to feel depressed and anxious that you’re not going to get better. What is going on? Why isn’t this working? Is this just whiplash or is it something more?
The answer lies in the brain.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It results from a blunt acceleration or deceleration whether you physically hit the head or not. It involves hitting the head on the sides of the skull and also involves twisting of the brain and brainstem neurons like you’re wringing the water out of a towel. It involves micro and macro trauma to the soft tissue (muscle, tendon, fascia, ligaments, discs) in the cervical spine, shoulders, thoracic spine and lumbar spine.
In addition to soft tissue and neurological injury, there’s also a neuro-immune and neuro-endocrine response that’s invisible to the eye, but has been shown in the latest research to be present during and after a concussion.
What happens to neurons in a concussion is they have micro shearing occur, which disrupts their stable membrane and spews inflammatory cytokines and excitatory neurotransmitters out into the brains environment which sensitizes all the neurons around it. These neurons of the immune system are called Glial Cells and they ultimately act like Bruce Banner and The Hulk. Usually they are the intelligent and calm Bruce Banner of the brain’s immune system, but when they get ticked off or injured, they immediately turn into The Hulk. And what does The Hulk do? HULK SMASH. That’s right, the Glial cells (aka Hulk) go around and start cleaning up and destroying everything it can get its hands on. This part is normal for the first 2-4 weeks or so, but if it persists can lead to devastating symptoms called “Post Concussion Syndrome”.
You see, it’s not the neck, shoulder, back or soft tissue that’s typically the problem in Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). Sure soft tissue plays a their role in proper feedback to the brain when it’s functioning properly, but it’s the brain’s inability to function because it’s been injured too. Symptoms continue in PCS occurs because the brain cannot properly:
- Dampen pain
- Focus your eyes
- Focus your mind
- Regulate the stimulation from light and sound
- Increase your energy levels
- Maintain proper emotions
- Send proper signals to produce hormones (such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and vitamin D)
- Keep you balanced and coordinated properly
- Controls your Motor Activity (like quick movements and walking)
When working with concussions it’s imperative labs are run investigating the cause of why you’re experiencing post-concussion symptoms. We must work together to address all the possible underlying problems creating your symptoms.
We often run comprehensive blood labs looking for:
- Blood sugar instability such as diabetes or hypoglycemia
- Anemia due to B vitamin or Iron deficiency
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Chronic Infection
- Chronic Stress situations
Typical labs that we run are often more comprehensive and complete when evaluating multiple systems:
- Cholesterol, breakdown of Apo A/B
- CBC w/ differential and platelets
- Vitamin D
- TSH, Total T3 and T4, Free T3 and T4, T3Uptake, Reverse T3, Thyroperoxidase antibodies, Thyrobinding globulin antibodies
- hsCRP and ESR
- HbA1c and C-peptide, LDH
- Ferritin, Iron, TIBC
- Uric Acid
- 24 hour saliva Cortisol testing
- Full hormone panel- pregnenolone, progesterone, DHEA-s, estradiol, test. total and free
If you’ve been in a car accident anytime in the past and are still experiencing these symptoms, please reach out to the office to schedule your evaluation. We want to get you out of pain as quickly as possible and back on the road to recovery.