Head/ Neck

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Neck/ Head

Whiplash

Whiplash involves an injury to the neck and surrounding tissues. Whiplash is caused by a sudden backward and/or forward jerking motion of the head, often as a result of a car accident or contact with another object.  With whiplash, the intervertebral joints (located between the spinal vertebrae), discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots may become damaged.

In the past, whiplash injuries were often treated with immobilization in a cervical collar. However, the current trend is to encourage early movement instead of immobilization. Ice is often recommended for the first 24 hours, followed by gentle, active movement.

Physical therapy is initially provided to minimize pain and improve mobilityThis is done through manual therapy, gentle exercises, and modalites such as US, laser, electrical stimulation, and ice or heat. Education is provided to help make the activities you need to do every day more comfortable, such as pillows and positioning for sleep, posture, and how to sit at your computer. Finally, progressive strengthening is incorporated to help you get back to your normal life and sports activities.

Neck Pain/Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy is the referral of pain, numbness, and/or weakness into the arm, due to irritation of a nerve This occurs when one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed or irritated.

Damage can occur as a result of pressure from material from a ruptured disc, degenerative changes in bones, arthritis, inflammation, or other injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots. In middle-aged people, normal degenerative changes in the discs can cause pressure on nerve roots. In younger people, cervical radiculopathy tends to be the result of a ruptured disc, perhaps as a result of trauma. This disc material then compresses or inflames the nerve root, causing pain.

Physical therapy  may include gentle cervical traction, mobilization to restore normal motion in the adjacent joints; exercises to improve posture, stability, and strength; taping to quiet a muscle spasm down or help you improve body awareness of your posture;  and modalities to reduce pain. We always provide education about your posture, perhaps the way you sit at your desk, and how you position your neck. 

Concussion

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Although there may be cuts or bruises on the head or face, there may be no visible signs of a brain injury.

You don't have to lose consciousness to have a concussion.  Symptoms may include: brief loss of consciousness after the injury, confusion, dizziness, memory problems, double vision or blurred vision, headache, and nausea or vomiting.  Longer term symptoms may include sensitivity to light, headaches, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.  Symptoms may not come on until several days or weeks after the injury

Concussions can happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, or snowboarding.  Concussions frequently happen at the same time as whiplash, a condition mentioned previously. Other common ways include fights, falls, playground injuries, car crashes, and bike accidents.

It's important to know that after a concussion the brain is more sensitive to damage. Studies indicate that repeated concussions over the course of a lifetime may contribute to lasting damage to the brain. So while you are recovering, be sure to avoid activities that might injure you again. 

Concussions should be treated immediately, with an evaluation by a physician. You may be required to rest, stop exercise for a time, cut down on computer and other screen time, and limit school work.   Physical therapists can establish baseline function with testing of athletes before a concussion happens, monitor symptoms in coordination with your physician during recovery, as well as treat the secondary symptoms of whiplash. This includes working on dizzyness, balance, agility, and a progressive strengthening program for return to sports for athletes who are not able to resume sports right away.

Head Ache

Cervicogenic headache, in a way, is one of the more unusual headaches to have because the pain truly isn’t in the head. Cervicogenic headache is referred pain from the neck and surrounding muscles.

Treatment for cervicogenic headache should target the source, as well as the cause of the pain, for example, poor posture.  Treatment  may include mobilization and soft tissue techniques for restricted joints and tight muscles in the neck and upper back, postural training, release of trigger points, taping, and strengthening exercises, as well as evaluating your temporomandibular joint.

TMD/TMJ Dysfunction

Your temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear, or at your “cheek.”  It lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew, and yawn.

Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). You may also hear it called “TMJ”, after the joint.  They occur

Causes of TMD include an injury to your jaw, the joint, or the muscles of your head and neck, such as from a heavy blow or whiplash. Others include misalignment (malocclusion) of the teeth or jaw, grinding your teeth, recent dental work, poor posture, and loss of ROM of the neck joints and muscles.  

Symptoms of TMD may include: Pain and stiffness of your jaw and/or neck, aching pain in and around your ear, facial pain, headache, difficulty or pain with chewing, difficulty and/or pain with opening or closing your mouth, ringing in your ears, and painful clicking or locking of your jaw.

Talk to your Physical Therapist about these treatments for TMD:

Manual therapy to release the tightness of the joints and muscles of your neck and upper back, and mobilization of the joint in the jaw,  resulting in freely opening and closing the mouth without pain. Exercises to improve your posture and head, neck,and jaw alignment. Working in concert with your dentist as needed, such as referring out for a splint or night guard to lessen the effects of clenching or grinding and correct your bite by putting your teeth in a more correct position.

Modalities of heat, US, and laser may also be helpful in the initial stages to lessen pain and improve mobility.

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