A Neck Injury: What You Need To Know About Your Concussion
Head injuries and concussions have become a major topic in the medical and sports fields. Doctors are coming up with better protocols and technology to distinguish when a serious head injury has occurred. A large public education movement has also started so that coaches, parents, and trainers can also recognize the signs of a head injury. But once it has been decided that a concussion has occurred, little advances are being made on what to do about it. In fact the current accepted protocol is simply rest, then watch and wait. The idea is that the brain has been shaken and needs rest. Once given that rest it goes back to functioning normally, usually within 7-10 days.
Now for the majority, the pain does resolve within that time but anywhere from 30-80% of patients experience symptoms past that 10 day window (and even though the pain is gone, that doesn’t mean the injury has been fixed/healed but that concept is for a different blog post). This is known as post concussive syndrome and can manifest with symptoms such as headache, neck pain, jaw pain, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, and cognitive impairment. Why is the pain persisting? What isn’t often recognized, is that the majority of these head injuries also involved a neck injury. With blows to the head and body, the head is impacted and forced into a change of directions. This is also the mechanism associated with whiplash, a common neck injury. Injuries to the neck can also create headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, dizziness, etc. Unfortunately the neck is ignored when treating a head injury unless a fracture has been detected. Although a fracture is an important diagnosis to rule out, it is not the only injury to the neck that needs attention.
When we experience an accident or injury like a concussion or whiplash, the connective tissue that holds our head on straight is damaged. This results in a shift in the alignment of the spine. Specific x-rays and analysis can detect and measure these misalignments, also known as subluxations. When a subluxation to the spine occurs it can interfere with how the brain communicates with the body via the nervous system. This interference can cause a decrease in function resulting in health concerns like the pain and dizziness associated with concussions and post concussive syndrome. Unfortunately I have seen patients in my office months and even years after their initial injury, still in pain and desperate for help. In my office I give the head and neck the attention they both require. Accurately detecting and correcting the subluxation at the top of the spine is what Upper Cervical Chiropractors are trained to do. We are essentially experts in putting your head on straight. By doing do, stress is relieved on the nervous system allowing your body to function better which can result in decreased pain and dizziness. This is the missing piece in concussion management.
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