Monthly Archives: February 2012

10 Years Later: Whiplash symptoms linger in follow-up study

Whiplash patients can suffer from pain symptoms for up to ten years after an auto collision according to a recent study.

The study included 133 whiplash patients and 233 healthy subjects who had originally participated in a whiplash study between 1993-1996. In the follow-up study, participants received MRI scans and a physical examination that included reports on pain symptoms.

While whiplash patients had experienced significant improvements in their pain levels, a number of symptoms persisted.Compared to healthy participants, whiplash patients were twice as likely to have shoulder stiffness and neck pain and three times as likely to have headaches, arm pain, and numbness.

Although there were some observable changes in disc degeneration in whiplash  patients, in general, these changes were not significantly different than the control group. Researchers therefore concluded that MRI scans could not explain the higher prevalence of pain in whiplash patients.

Though more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of auto injuries, this study confirms that whiplash can have lasting implications for many patients.


Matsumoto, Morio, Eiro Okada,Daisuke Ichihara, et al. Prospective Ten-Year Follow-up Study Comparing Patients With Whiplash-Associated Disorders and Asymptomatic Subjects Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Spine. 2010; 35(18): 1684–1690.

Repeat concussions ups risk of cognitive impairment late in life

The recent spotlight on sports-related concussions is well-warranted since recurrent concussions can cause cognitive impairments later in life.

A 2005 study gathered data from more than 2,000 retired football players in the NFL Retired Players Association. Retirees filled out extensive questionnaires on their general health, memory, and history with cognitive disorders.61% of NFL retirees reported receiving at least on concussion during their career and 24% had received more than three concussions. Players who had multiple concussions were five times more likely to have significant memory problems and mild cognitive disorder impairment (MCI) which is often a transition to dementia.

Though having repeated concussions was not found to increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, having multiple concussions was associated with an earlier onset of the disease compared to the general population.Revisiting this important research reminds us of the critical need for preventing recurrent mild traumatic-brain injuries.

Guskiewicz, Kevin M., Stephen W. Marshall, Julian Bailes, Michael McCrea, Robert C. Cantu, Christopher Randolph, and Barry D. Jordan. Association between recurrent concussion and late-life cognitive impairment in retired professional football players. Neurology. 2005; 57(1): 719-726.


Post-traumatic stress linked to muscle degeneration in whiplash patients

Scientists have previously observed the presence of post-traumatic stress in patients with whiplash. But a new study suggests that post-traumatic stress may actually worsen muscle degeneration associated with whiplash.1

In the study, researchers tracked muscle degeneration in 44 patients with whiplash in the first six months post-injury. Using MRI scans, they analyzed the amount of fatty tissues developing in patients’ muscles. Increased fatty tissues is a sign of muscle degeneration.

After six months, a number of patients had recovered or else had greatly reduced whiplash symptoms. Those patients were also the ones who had lower levels of fatty tissues all along. On the other hand, patients who had developed severe, chronic whiplash after six months also had developed more fatty tissues in their neck muscles. Those patients were also more likely to exhibit PTSD symptoms and have poor functional recovery. The strong association of PTSD with increased fatty tissues suggests that there is a “neuro-pyscho-biological link with poor outcomes” between PTSD and muscle degeneration.

Prolonged stress produces a number of biological responses and can negatively impact the muscle system. Researchers noted that the early identification and management of stress may prevent the physical symptoms of whiplash from worsening later on.

Meanwhile, new research indicates that chiropractic adjustments can boost the body’s response to stress by lowering stress hormones and altering the part of the brain that processes pain and stress.2 Since stress management could be a critical component of whiplash recovery, this study strengthens the existing benefits for chiropractic treatment of whiplash.




  1. Elliott, James, and Ashley Pedler, Justin Kenardy,  Graham Galloway, Gwendolen Jull, Michele Sterling. The Temporal Development of Fatty Infiltrates in the Neck Muscles Following Whiplash Injury: An Association with Pain and Posttraumatic Stress. PLoS ONE. 2011; 6 (6): e21194. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021194.
  1. Ogura, Takeshi and Manabu Tashiro, Mehedi,Shoichi Watanuki, Katsuhiko Shibuya, Keiichiro Yamaguchi, Masatoshi Itoh, Hiroshi Fukuda, Kazuhiko Yanai. Cerebral Metabolic Changes in Men After Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation for Neck Pain. Alternative Therapies. 2011, November/December; 17 (6): 12-17.

Brain injuries have lasting implications for children

Brain injuries can have longer-lasting effects on children than experts previously thought.

Young children have high neuroplasticity; in other words, their brains can reroute signals more quickly than older children and adults. This plasticity led many doctors to assume that children with brain injuries would “grow into their deficits.” Rather than growing into their deficits though, children with brain injuries in this study still had cognitive deficiencies five years and ten years after their initial injury. This was only true for children with severe traumatic brain injuries, not mild TBIs or concussions.

In the study, 40 children with severe brain injuries had poorer intellectual, adaptive, behavioral, and social skills than 16 healthy children. While the TBI children did improve, their development dragged behind their peers. Researchers suggested that children with severe brain injuries may benefit from prolonged intervention to improve their intellectual and cognitive capabilities.



Anderson, Vicki, Celia Godfrey, Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Cathy Catroopa. Predictors of Cognitive Function and Recovery 10 Years After Traumatic Brain Injury in Young Children. Pediatrics. February 2012: 12(1); doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0311.

Collins, Lois. “Brain Injury might have larger effect on children than experts thought.”Desert News. January 23, 2012. Accessed February 6, 2012.

Arm Pain After a Car Accident

Arm pain after a car accident – along with shoulder pain – are common symptoms. There are three common ways that arm symptoms can develop after a car crash.

First, shoulder symptoms may actually be due to neck injury. If the ligaments or discs in the neck are injured, they can cause problems with the nerves that travel from the arm. This type of injury can result in either immediate or delayed arm and shoulder symptoms.

Second, the violent force of an auto collision can directly damage the shoulder, arm or wrist. This type of injury usually results in shoulder and arm pain soon after the collision.

Third, the shoulder and arms can become painful from tension in the neck and back caused by whiplash injury. This type of shoulder pain may take a few weeks or months to develop after the crash.