Monthly Archives: November 2011

Jaw Pain and Dysfunction after an Auto Accident

You don’t recall being injured in the jaw during the car crash, yet you have acute pain in your jaw, headaches, and difficulty chewing. These may be the signs of damage to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint sits directly in front of your ear and connects your upper and lower jaw bones. People who have whiplash after an auto collision have an increased risk of TMJ disorder.

One scientific study compared 12 patients with whiplash and 12 patients without pain. Using a 3D motion detector, researchers examined patients as they chewed, opened, and closed their jaws. Patients with whiplash had irregular head movements and a limited range of motion. Typically, when a person opens and closes their mouth, there is slight movement in the cervical spine, or the part of the spine running through the neck. Whiplash patients in this study had no movement of the cervical spine, indicating significant damage to this important part of the body. Damage to the neck or cervical spine can lead to chronic jaw pain, jaw dysfunction, and headaches.

Chiropractors can utilize various non-invasive techniques to bring the cervical spine back to its normal, healthy position, thereby relieving the pain of whiplash and jaw dysfunction.

 

Hoggman-Henrikson B, Zafar H, Eriksson PO. Disturbed jaw behavior in whiplash-associated disorders during rhythmic jaw movements. Journal of Dental Research 81.11 (2002)):747-751.

Can breast cancer cause brain injury?

Breast cancer survivors have long complained of a certain “brain fog”; reporting their thinking is slowed down. It turns out that this isn’t simply an imagined feeling, medical research lends credence to this “brain fog” or “chemo brain”.  New research shows that breast cancer may cause brain injury; according to a recent study published from Standford University.

The study compared 25 women who had survived breast cancer and received chemotherapy with 19 who hadn’t received chemotherapy, and 18 healthy women. Using a functional MRI, researchers monitored the women’s brain activity level as they completed a matching-card game.

All groups showed similar levels of brain activity except in a few crucial areas- the left middle dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and left medial frontal. These areas help you process information and control how quickly you shift your attention according to learned rules. Women that were treated with chemotherapy also performed more poorly in the card game, taking longer to complete the test with more errors.

Even so, both breast cancer groups had impaired brain activity, causing researchers to conclude that breast cancer can lead to measurable brain injury, irrespective of chemotherapy. Receiving chemotherapy may worsen that impairment though since it appears to be toxic to certain areas of the brain, researchers noted.

If you’re experiencing “brain fog” after surviving breast cancer, a doctor can help you develop coping mechanisms to improve your daily functioning.

 

Gever, John. “Breast Cancer Itself May Cause ‘Brain Fog’”. Medpage Today. November 14,2001. Accessed November 16, 2011. http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/BreastCancer/29668

Kesler S, et al. “Prefrontal cortex and executive function impairments in primary breast cancer”.Archives Neurology 68. (2011): 1447-1453. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2011.245.

Hidden brain damage in high-school football players

More athletes may be suffering from neurological impairment than previously thought.  New research showed that even when high-school football players didn’t have a concussion, they still suffered from neurological impairment according to a study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma. The neurological impairment is particularly concerning given the fact that many athletes without concussions continue playing thereby increasing their risk of developing long-term degenerative brain diseases.

Researchers performed neurological cognitive testing and functional MRI scans on 21 high-school football players prior to the start of the season. The players wore sensors in their helmets that indicated the direction and the intensity of collisions to their head throughout the season. 11 of those players were evaluated after the season because they had received a concussion, had an unusually high number of head collision or had a particularly intense head collision.

The three players that had a concussion performed poorly on a neurological cognitive testing and had brain impairment visible on functional MRI scans, as expected.  But among the eight players without concussion, researchers were surprised to find that four of them also exhibited neurological impairment. Those players had decreased neurological activity levels in the part of the brain dealing with working memory (especially visual memory).

Researchers concluded that these findings were consistent with other research that suggests that professional football players without concussions can still develop a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

This research highlights the importance of athlete and coach safety education. Sometimes even when players experience symptoms, they neglect to report those symptoms for fear of being taken out of the game, researchers pointed out. Yet this can cause more serious problems down the line. If you have a teen that plays football or hockey, talk to them about the seriousness and high risk of brain injuries among collision-sport athletes. Consult with a doctor about preventative measures and proper treatment to ensure your teen is playing it safe.

Neale, Todd. “Brain Damage in Football Players May be Hidden”. Medpage Today. October 8, 2010. Accessed November 10, 2011.http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/HeadTrauma/22638.

Talavage T, et al. “Functionally-detected cognitive impairment in high school football players without clinically-diagnosed concussion”. Journal of  Neurotrauma (2010). doi 10.1089/neu.2010.1512.

 

Trouble Seeing? Whiplash and Visual Disturbances

Blurry vision, difficulty focusing, blind spots, watery eyes.  While this may sound like a symptom check list at an optometrist office, these are just some of the visual disturbances many whiplash patients experience. But how and why do these visual disturbances occur?

One study revealed more about the nature and cause of visual disturbances by evaluating 19 whiplash patients. These patients were compared to 43 people without neck pain or whiplash. Researchers examined participants’ ability to adjust their eyes and focus on objects at different distances. They discovered that whiplash patients had more difficulty adjusting and focusing their eyes than non-whiplash participants.

It may seem strange that an injury in your neck can some how impact your eyes. In reality, your eyes and neck are connected by the nerves running through the sympathetic pathway in your spine.  An injury to neck damages the cervical spine, or the neck area of the spine. Damage to the cervical spine can damage the nerves in the sympathetic pathway, decreasing your control of your eyes and potentially leading to Horner’s syndrome. Symptoms of Horner’s syndrome include drooping eyelids, constricted pupils, and decreased sweating on the affected side of the face.

Like neck pain and headache, visual disturbance is a well-recognized symptoms of whiplash. If you experience visual disturbances and neck pain after an auto collision, consider having your neck thoroughly examined for whiplash by chiropractor or other medical practitioner.

 

Brown S. “Effect of whiplash injury on accommodation”. Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 31 (2003):424-429.

Children with brain injuries have a lower quality of life

Recently, we wrote about how the number of children and adolescents visiting the emergency room with brain injuries from sports has jumped by 60% over the last ten years. Now, new research is revealing more about the nature and effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in children.

One study analyzed medical data of 100,000 children with TBIs from Seattle and its suburbs over the course of 18 months. Of the children who received medical attention after their injury, only 3% had moderate to severe brain injuries. The majority of children had mild TBIs. Researchers did note however that their study may be limited by regional conditions and the fact that not all children with TBIs seek medical attention. The data does pose the possibility though that the majority of TBI cases in children may be mild.

Another study from Seattle demonstrates that any TBI negatively impacts a child’s quality of life, even if it is a mild case. This study monitored 729 children with TBIs compared to 197 children with arm injuries for 24 months. Within the first three months after the injury, children with TBIs had a lower quality of life and were significantly less able to participate in activities. Their ability to engage in activities improved after 12 and 24 months but remained impaired. Children’s self-care and communication skills also deteriorated after the injury without significantly improving after 24 months.

While brain injuries may be mostly mild, they can still seriously damage a child’s quality of life. If you have a child with a TBI, consult with a doctor about methods of rehabilitation that can ensure your child has the quality of life they deserve.

 

Koepsell TD, et al.”Incidence and descriptive epidemiologic features of traumatic brain injury in King County, Washington”. Pediatrics 2011. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2259.

Rivara, Frederick et al. “Disability 3, 12, and 24 Months After Traumatic Brain Injury Among Children and Adolescents.” Pediatrics 2011. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0840.

Risk of Stroke Increases after Traumatic Brain Injury

Having a traumatic brain injury may increase your risk of a stroke according to new research. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have been linked to an array of serious health conditions, mostly neurological, but a recent study demonstrates the close link between strokes and TBIs.

In this study, researchers examined the health records from insurance companies of 23,199 individuals with TBIs. They compared these individuals with 69,597 individuals without TBIs who still received medical treatment. Researchers were able to control for age, sex, geographical region, income level, diabetes, and heart disease, among other factors. They excluded patients with a history of stroke or TBI and strokes.

Researchers discovered that having a TBI increased a patients’ risk of stroke ten-fold within the first three months, four-fold within the first year, and two-fold within the five years. This risk was higher for patients with brain injuries from skull fractures. From a mechanical perspective, researchers suggested the link between strokes and TBIs makes sense because blows to the head that are strong enough to injure the brain may also disrupt the vasculature.

While the insurance records in the study were comprehensive, researchers pointed out that the records did not track patients’ body-mass index or lifestyle habits like smoking that may also increase their risk of stroke. Still, the data suggests that TBIs can greatly increase your chance of developing a stroke.  Researchers suggested that patients be more closely monitored for strokes and other serious medical conditions following a brain injury. If you or a loved one has a TBI, consult with a doctor about ways to prevent strokes and promote a healthy recovery.

 

Chen Y-H, et al “Patients with traumatic brain injury: population-based study suggests increased risk of stroke”. Stroke 2011. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.6201