Monthly Archives: January 2022
What is Whiplash Associated Disorder?
Whiplash is a general termed injury that usually take place in a motor vehicle crash where the head is subject to sudden acceleration and deceleration, causing forceful bending in neck region. Since the movement is unlikely to occur in normal human range of motion, the muscles that control your neck movement do not have time to respond to the force, causing damage to the neck region.
The Quebec Task Force classifies Whiplash into five gradings, based on severity:
- Grade 0: No complaint about pain, tenderness, or stiffness of the neck. No physical signs.
- Grade I: Complaint of pain, tenderness, or stiffness of the neck without physical signs.
- Grade II: Complaint of pain, tenderness, or stiffness of the neck with musculoskeletal signs such as decrease range of motion and point tenderness.
- Grade III: Complaint of pain, tenderness, or stiffness of the neck with neurological signs such as sensory deficits.
- Grade IV: Complaint of pain, tenderness, or stiffness of the neck with signs of fracture and dislocation.
During a rear-end crush, the torso the carried forward, forcing the cervical spine, located in our neck, into an abnormal “S-shaped” position. Then, the head and neck were forced backwards since the torso was pulled forward during the collision. This may cause injuries to anterior cervical ligaments. The head and neck will swing forward as the driver stop the vehicle immediately.
Signs and symptoms
Whiplash Associated Disorder comprised range of symptoms including neck pain and stiffness, headache, memory loss, dizziness, dysphagia, and temporomandibular joint pain.
Patients with history of sudden or excessive neck extension, flexion, or rotation are in the risk of whiplash injury. During initial assessment, patient may report having reduced cervical spine range of motion, loss of muscle control in both cervical spine and shoulder gridle, loss or decrease in balance and deficits in neck-influenced eye movement control. For more serious cases, some patient may experience muscle degeneration in the cervical extensor muscles, lead to long lasting pain and disability.
In the first 96 hours after injured, mobilization such as active and passive range of motion exercises can result in reduced pain levels and improve function. Active rest, such as continue daily activity with brief rest period, can help blood flowing and muscle recover. Immobilization of long period of time can delay recovery time as muscle and ligament fibers are not aligned properly which can reduce strength and energy absorption capacity. Moreover, some patients will take NSAIDs to reduce inflammation, and neck rang of motion had reported improved after two weeks with medicine. Other physical treatments that practitioners will used are heat and cold packs, ultrasound therapy, and head traction. Theses can reduce pain and enhance recovery during the acute phase of whiplash injury.
During subacute phase, the goal for the patient is to return cervical muscle function as normal as possible. Light isometric and isotonic strengthening exercises that target the neck and scapular can help restore neck active range of motion. Light stretching also play a crucial role to improve tissue healing by increasing blood flow to the injured area. Vestibular and motor control exercises can improve neuro deficits and retraining muscle activation. Manual joint manipulation provided by chiropractors can reduce pain and initiate body’s natural healing processes. For ongoing management, continue with all the treatments stated above as well as increase the intensity of strengthen exercises.
Bannister, G., Amirfeyz, R., Kelley, S., & Gargan, M. (2009). Whiplash injury. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. British Volume, 91-B(7), 845–850. https://doi.org/10.1302/0301-620x.91b7.22639
Barnsley, L., Lord, S., & Bogduk, N. (1994). Whiplash injury. Pain, 58(3), 283–307. https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-3959(94)90123-6
Elliott, J. M., Noteboom, J. T., Flynn, T. W., & Sterling, M. (2009). Characterization of Acute and Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 39(5), 312–323. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2009.2826
Pastakia, & Kumar, S. (2011). Acute whiplash associated disorders (WAD). Open Access Emergency Medicine, 29. https://doi.org/10.2147/oaem.s17853
Sterling, M. (2011). Whiplash-associated disorder: musculoskeletal pain and related clinical findings. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 19(4), 194–200. https://doi.org/10.1179/106698111×13129729551949
Tameem, A., Kapur, S., & Mutagi, H. (2014). Whiplash injury. Continuing Education in Anaesthesia Critical Care & Pain, 14(4), 167–170. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjaceaccp/mkt052
Posted on by Andrea Cheung
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is the symptom of an underlying medical condition, not a medical diagnosis. However, this term has been incorrectly used to describe pain in back and leg symptoms by the general population. This is a term to describe a pain symptom that radiates from the middle or lower buttock down to the back and the side of the leg along the sciatic nerve, sometime it could radiate below the knees into the foot and toes. Sensory symptoms may also be reported by the patient. Usually, the pain only affects either left or right rather than both sides. Other thing to note is that Low back pain is not a consistent feature seen in sciatica but may also present in patient.
Symptoms and examination
Research has found that 90% of the cases are due to herniated disc that compress the nerve root from L4 to S1. Different levels of compression will present slightly different clinical features. With L4 compression, the pain is front and to the side of the thigh, which may sometimes mistake as a hip disease. Vis versa, L5 compression show pain at the back and the sides. Some other causes of sciatica might be lumbar canal or foraminal stenosis and tumors or cysts.
To examine whether a patient have sciatica, Straight Leg Raising Test have shown high sensitivity of 91%. When the patient is lying down and facing up, raising the whole leg straight can stretch the nerve root of the protruding disc. This will reproduce the pain and discomfort that the patient complains. If the leg is angled between 30 to 70 degrees with pain from buttock to below knee, disc compression of nerve root might be the cause of radiated pain.
Sometimes, sciatica might be mixed up with non-specific low back pain. Some major signs to justify sciatica are radiated pain towards foot or toes, numbness and paranesthesia.
Conservative non-surgical treatments are recommended for patient. Most common initial treatment will be pain control by medication prescribed by family doctor, which could provide relief to patient’s discomfort. The most common medication is naproxen, used to relieve pain for various conditions. Other conservative treatment such as acupuncture, steroid injections, etc. might be beneficial but studies has been inconsistent with pain relief of sciatica. However, rest and bed rest are not recommended to reduce pain as it might lead to acute low back pain although it might provide instant relief. Staying active likely to be more beneficial in improving sciatica and aid in faster recovery.
Another conservative treatment is spinal manipulation. It is widely used to provide a short-term benefit in relief pain symptoms in addition to exercise program targeting the low back and hip. Study had found that patient who has sciatica of at least six weeks, both conservative and disc surgery might improve patient’s pain and function. But we must aware of possible confounding in the study due to self reported data and patients’ preference for treatment may also affect treatment outcome.
If pain does not diminish in six to eight weeks, patient should meet a neurologist, neurosurgeon, or orthopedic surgeon to discuss other treatment methods such as surgery. It is always the last resource to treat sciatica when practitioner suspect a disc herniation or disc rupture. However, evidence has shown controversial outcomes with surgery. Studies has shown patient who did surgery has faster relief of pain compare to conservative treatment.
Exercise is always the best prevention protocols that a patient could do during their free time. Specific strengthening exercise that targets the core and the lower back can help protect the spine and maintain good posture. Patient can also stay active by jogging around the neighborhood or swimming and the pool.
Maintaining a good sitting posture is also important to prevent disc compression. Prevent bending the lower back which could reduce pressure on the discs and ligaments. Moreover, take a small break every 30 minutes of sitting can relief the pressure in the disc.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, September 24). 5 tips with coping sciatica. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/5-tips-for-coping-with-sciatica
Koes, B. W., van Tulder, M. W., & Peul, W. C. (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica. BMJ, 334(7607), 1313–1317. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39223.428495.be
Ropper, A. H., & Zafonte, R. D. (2015). Sciatica. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(13), 1240–1248. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmra1410151
Valat, J. P., Genevay, S., Marty, M., Rozenberg, S., & Koes, B. (2010). Sciatica. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology, 24(2), 241–252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.berh.2009.11.005