Whiplash and headaches

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Seventy-five percent of all head, neck or facial pain is referred from trigger points in muscles of the head and neck caused by bite problems — problems with how the teeth come together. Regardless of who a person in pain has seen and what they have been told, in a 60 minute appointment they could find out if our office can help them by stopping the pain with no drugs, needles, or surgery. What would you do tomorrow if you knew for certain that tomorrow was going to be a totally pain free day?

“Whiplash” is the common term for a neck injury which often occurs when a person is riding in a car which is hit by another car or hits another car or object. Typically, the passenger's head forcibly snaps downward with the chin toward the neck, and then backward as the body is thrown forward. The head then snaps forward in a recoil motion. This severe backward and forward motion damages the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) supporting the neck, head, and jaw resulting in an unbalanced bite.

Among those victims of whiplash, 60 percent of them never seem to fully recover and this could be because of damage which has been done to the jaw joints and the muscles that support those joints.

It is easy to see why this damage happens, when you consider that the head itself weighs 11 pounds. When the head snaps backward, it creates 500 to 600 pounds of force on the neck! Women are even more vulnerable to whiplash injuries than men because their neck muscles are smaller in relation to head weight.

Therefore more women suffer from chronic headaches after car accidents.

Since injuries to soft tissues do not show up on X-rays, it is difficult to immediately see whether or not these structures have been damaged. The symptoms may not be felt until hours, days, months, and even years after the accident. Once symptoms do appear, however, they can be very painful and quite persistent.

Whiplash symptoms include:

• Neck pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion (turning the head)

• Headaches and numbness of the head and face

• Blurring of vision and pain behind the eyes

• Problems with balance — dizziness

• Difficulty swallowing

• Ringing in the ears

• Jaw pain — TMJ/TMD

One reason why symptoms may persist is because in many cases of whiplash, the jaw joints and the muscles which support the jaw are damaged as well. The accident may trigger a condition in which these muscles go into spasm and become very painful.

Specific clues as to whether this damage occurred include:

• Pain in or around the jaw joints

• Clicking or popping of the jaw joints

• Locking or limited opening of your mouth

• Difficulty with bringing your teeth together

Because many health care providers do not suspect that the jaw joints and muscles may have been damaged, this aspect often goes unrecognized. When not recognized and treated it can become the dominant medical problem.

How can the jaw and the bite be affected by a neck injury? The head is completely supported by the neck which also serves as the head's lifeline to the rest of the body. The mandible, or lower jaw, is the movable part of the head that involves speaking, chewing, and swallowing. It is attached to the skull by two joints on either side of your head, just in front of your ears called the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ for short).

Jaw movement is controlled by a complex balance of many muscles. When the neck is forced to move beyond its normal range of motion, as happens with a whiplash, the neck muscles and ligaments stretch and tear. The muscles which control your lower jaw are also affected. Those which attach the lower jaw to the front of the neck end up contracting — shortening — so that the mouth opens too wide while the head snaps backward. This may cause the jaw joints to dislocate. They are often rammed up against the back of the delicate part of the skull bone which encases these joints causing tinnitus — ringing in the ears. Trigger points develop in the muscles and the result is referred pain to other areas of the body which can develop immediately or many years later.

If you, a friend, or a relative are suffering from the persistent symptoms of whiplash and suspect that your jaw joints and surrounding muscles might have been damaged, contact our office. We will conduct a thorough evaluation of your head and neck joints and muscles to determine if our treatment will help you. Take time to understand your health. Your health is your most priceless possession. It is worth the investment!

Heartfelt Headache Relief in Coeur d’Alene offers you a free consultation to discuss your problem. A diagnostic examination focused on revealing the root cause of the pain, and treatment (dentomandibular rehabilitation) which targets those root causes without drugs, needles, or invasive surgical procedures may be the answer you have been looking for.

• • •

Dr. Donald Johnson founded Heartfelt Headache Relief in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their pain and live free with no limits! His office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.HeartfeltHeadacheRelief.com and the office phone is (208) 667-4551. Schedule an appointment today!

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