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How the Brain Changes in Whiplash Injuries

How the Brain Changes in Whiplash Injuries

Imagine what it would be like to have a fall or accident in your teens, only to suffer from those whiplash symptoms decades later.  That’s what happened to my patient, Bob. 

Bob is a 57-year-old-man who came to me in my Norwalk clinic because he’d been suffering from Bell’s palsy—muscle weakness that causes drooping on one side of the face—for about seven years.  His symptoms were severe, including:

·         Drooling

·         Disordered movements in the facial movements that affected his expressions

·         Headaches

·         Tearing

·         Loss of taste

·         Hypersensitivity to sounds

After reviewing all his X-rays, I’d noticed a severe neck injury that must’ve been many years old. Bob told me about a major accident he’d had decades earlier. He was 17, out for a joy ride with a friend, wearing no seatbelt, and racing towards his youthful adrenaline between the lines on the road.  Sadly, his night was cut short when he was involved in a severe accident that killed his friend and nearly stole his life too.  He wasn’t expected to make it through. 

Whiplash after an accident can lead to serious long-term repercussions if not treated from the beginning.  But the good news is that it’s reversible.  Within just a few visits, Bob saw significant relief in his symptoms.  His whiplash treatment regimen was a critical part of his recovery.  He now lives a full and active life without the pain and discomfort of a long-ago tragedy. 

The Brain at the Onset of Whiplash Injuries

In severe accidents where you lose consciousness for any period, the brain develops lesions in the prefrontal cortex.  This is the area of the brain responsible for executive functions like focus, being able to predict the consequences of your actions, impulse control, and management of emotional reactions.  Lesions can also appear in deeper structures of the brain if the injury is bad enough. 

The Long-Term Effects and Symptoms of Whiplash Injuries

Just because a whiplash injury doesn’t knock you unconscious, doesn’t mean it can’t become problematic.  Symptoms of chronic whiplash injuries include:

·         Severe chronic shoulder and neck pain

·         Ringing in the ears

·         Blurry vision

·         Severe headaches

·         Sleep difficulties

·         Memory problems

·         Difficulty with focus and concentration

In 2016, a study revealed changes in the pain and posture processing part of the brain many years after the accident.  They were looking for a way to help people suffering from chronic whiplash associative disorder—a problem with motor, sensorimotor, and sensory functions.  Whiplash can happen at low speeds, so people don’t always see their doctor right away, often leaving the injury untreated for years.  When they do seek attention, it’s difficult to impossible to see anything on tests.  In the study, researchers identified where the pain is occurring.  There is restricted blood flow from the neck to areas in the brain involved with pain perception and sensory processing from inside the body.     

Treating whiplash injuries quickly is critical to avoid long-term damage to nerves, muscles, tendons, and the brain.  Proper whiplash treatment can reverse symptoms; however, the severity and type of injury will determine the path of your treatment plan.  In all cases, it’s best not to wait.  Contact Slovin Chiropractic Center today for a consultation. 


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Sources:

Medical Life Sciences:  Changes in the pain and posture processing parts of the brain could cause whiplash symptoms.

BC Medical Journal:  Purports Of Brain Damage Following Presumed Whiplash Injury

Science Direct: Whiplash symptoms are caused by actual changes in the brain

Youth Sports Injuries: Are Girls More Fragile Than Boys?

Youth Sports Injuries: Are Girls More Fragile Than Boys?

Youth sports injuries are common in a chiropractor’s office.  We treat kids’ athletic injuries regularly, especially in high school and summer camp favorites like volleyball, football, soccer, swimming, and tennis. Common injuries usually have to do with the elbows, neck, shoulders, and back

I read a few articles recently that posed a thought-provoking question I’d like to bring to you: Are girls more fragile than boys when it comes to sustaining sports injuries? Is there any unbiased scientific evidence to support the claim, or is it based on viewing females as the more “delicate” gender or the “weaker” sex? 

What Prevents Girls from Participating in Sports?

The Women’s Sports Foundation spent 25 years studying the drop-out rates in girls’ youth sports.  Most girls drop out of athletics by the time they’re 14, which is two times the rate of boys.  WSF has identified the key factors contributing to this startling number.

·         There are few to no opportunities to play the desired sport given lack of access to utilities or the extra cost of paying for a gym membership or trainer. Schools continue to cut back on physical education classes, so millions of girls aren’t getting any athletic activity.

·         Sports require a place to play, which often means traveling for miles to a facility, sometimes through rough neighborhoods. There is a concern for the safety and transportation of young girls to and from sports activities. 

·         Let’s talk about social norms.  Even though we’ve seen tremendous progress in gender equality, athletic females are still stigmatized regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity. This is not something preteen or teen girls want to face and will forego sports because of it.

·         Sports become “less fun” as girls get older because their facilities aren’t as nice as the boys’, and the best coaches generally focus on boys’ athletics. 

·         Finally, WSF lists a lack of positive role models as a critical factor for why girls drop out of sports more often than boys. Despite all our progress, girls are still faced with thousands of images of what society considers beautiful. They rarely align with the strong, confident female athlete every girl has inside herself. 

What Are the Proposed Gender Differences in Youth Sports?

Practitioners from Human Kinetics suggest biological differences make boys more successful and essentially better at sports than girls.  They state these differences, along with the differences in socialization of boys and girls, play a significant role in girls’ athletic performance, including frequency and intensity of the injury. Specifically, they note:

·         Boys are usually taller with longer limbs, making them faster.

·         Boys’ shoulder-width allows for more muscle on a larger girdle. 

·         Generally, boys have more muscle mass and less body fat than girls, making them stronger, faster, and less likely to sustain an injury than girls.

Two Cents from Your Favorite Female Chiropractor, Who’s Also a Competitive Athlete

There’s no ignoring the physical differences between boys and girls, but I challenge anyone who doesn’t recognize those factors have more to do with the social stigmatization of muscular women than anything else.  I’ve never seen these biological differences stop or even limit a committed female athlete.  

I have never observed differences in treating female and male athletes, nor have I considered that girls are somehow more fragile than boys.  Sports help us build on important skills like leadership, teamwork, confidence, and even compassion for others.  Girls’ athletics, especially, can teach positive body image and improved self-image.  Further, athletes in the household tend to have better communication and deeper trust with their parents.

In any case, there is no difference in how I treat youth sports injuries.  If you have a girl or boy athlete with an injury or mysterious pain, we can help you at Slovin Chiropractic Center in Norwalk.  It’s best to catch any problems before they get worse.  I can help your youth develop healthy habits that protect their bones, joints, and muscles while playing their favorite sport. 

Sources:

Women’s Sports Foundation: Factors Influencing Girls Participation in Sports

Human Kinetics:  Reasons for Gender Differences in Youth

The Female Athlete Perspective

How to Protect Your Back When Gardening

How to Protect Your Back When Gardening

You can smell it in the air—it’s gardening time!  I love my garden. I can’t wait to get my hands in the earth and start planting.

Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity and is rewarding in so many ways. Still, strenuous activities can do a number on your body, so you’ll want to protect your back from the start. 

Treat Gardening as a Sport

Outdoor gardening is a seasonal activity that requires a tremendous amount of effort and skill. Here are a few other reasons I consider gardening a sport:

·         You’re competing against nature in a defensive position, pulling up weeds and managing growth. 

·         You play offense by maintaining a healthy environment free of pests, taking back territory in various parts of your garden.

·         You’re racing against the clock and only have so much time to rake the leaves, lift the soil, shovel the manure, and stir the compost.  

·         You work all your muscles, sweat a bunch, and feel exhausted yet exhilarated.

Gardening is fruitful and rewarding in multiple ways, but some tasks can lead to back pain if done without support or improper posture.  As a chiropractor, I see gardeners who’ve been pulled from their garden for weeks because of back or neck pain.  Let’s talk about which chores may need to be avoided or modified to protect your back and body. 

Tasks Most Likely to Cause Back Pain from Gardening

The #1 way to herniate a disc is bending forward and twisting.  It may seem like no big deal to grab a bag of mulch and throw it over your shoulder, but those movements can throw your back out and force you out of the garden for at least a couple of weeks.

Mixing and sowing tight soil can seriously pull those muscles in your arms, neck, and shoulders. And don’t forget about your wrists!

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Pulling weeds while bent forward can damage your neck and shoulders. 

What can you do to protect your back when gardening?  Let’s review a few tips to help you prepare for this season of growth. 

Pro Tips to Protect Your Back and Body While Gardening

1.       When performing repetitive activities with a weak back, a back brace can be helpful. Be sure to remove it as soon as you’re done gardening, though. Wearing the brace when you aren’t active will make your muscles and your core weaker over time.

2.       Spend about 10-15 minutes warming up and stretching your muscles before you start.

3.       Don’t go more than 20 or 30 minutes in your gardening chores.  Take frequent breaks and stretch your body in those few minutes. 

4.       When lifting heavy things, always face the object you need to raise and use your legs.  Never bend over to lift objects, even empty pots. 

5.       Don’t reach!  Use ladders or step stools to get something heavy from above your head. 

6.       Gardening from your knees uses your hips and saves your back from stress and strain. You can also hop on the trend of vertical gardening and do it from a standing position, or you can bring the pots to you on a table. 

7.       Get all your equipment ready to go before you start.

8.       Involve the family! When kids help grow food, they are more interested in eating their veggies.

You don’t have to miss out on the benefits of gardening due to a weak back.  Even doing something minor, like a few pots on your balcony, can bring you a sense of calm and work a few muscles in the process.  If you do happen to experience back pain from gardening, get in touch with us here at Slovin Chiropractic Center in Norwalk.  We can help you get back into the soil quickly and safely. 

Sources:

Rainy Side Gardeners: Gardening is a sport

Omron Health:  12 Gardening Tips for Lower Back Pain Management

Spine-Health:  11 Ways to Keep Gardening with Back Pain