Car accidents, sudden falls, accidents and athletic injuries can all result in what is commonly referred to as whiplash. This condition can be extremely painful and can dramatically limit the mobility and flexibility of the neck. Because the neck is one of the most frequently used parts of the body, the continued risk of re-injury is significant. Along with severe pain in the neck and shoulders, chronic headaches and migraines often occur after a whiplash injury.
What Causes Whiplash?
A forceful jerking of the head and neck causes whiplash, which is why car accidents are one of the most common causes. For example, if a car moves forward at 55 miles per hour, the body is carried along at the same rate of speed. If the car is forced to come to an abrupt stop and the body is being restrained by a shoulder seat belt, the head has nothing to protect it. It continues to move at 55 miles per hour until it has reached the distance that the neck allows it to travel. At that time, it is snapped back towards the body at an extremely high speed.
This forceful extension of the muscles and connective tissue as well as the flexion as the head is jerked backwards results in bruising, tearing and strains of the tissues in the neck.
How Does Whiplash Affect Headaches and Migraines?
During a whiplash injury, the tissues in the neck can become severely inflamed. The more inflammation and swelling that occur, the more pressure is put on the vessels that transport blood to and from the brain.
This reduction in blood flow deprives the brain of both nutrients as well as the oxygen it needs to function efficiently. It also allows toxins to build up within the brain, since the bloodstream cannot effectively carry them away.
Without sufficient amounts of oxygen, brain cells may begin to die off if deprived for a long enough period of time. This can also lead to confusion, headaches, severe migraines and – if not corrected in a timely fashion – a stroke.
What are the Long-Lasting Effects?
Individuals who have sustained numerous neck injuries, such as whiplash, neck strain, and compressed vertebrae (often seen in football players and athletes who play other contact sports), may have an excessive amount of scar tissue in the neck.
Over time, this can lead to chronic inflammation and pain that radiates up into the head. The inflammation may recur anytime a person re-injures the area. No matter how slight the injury, the inflammation continues to contribute to the creation of more scar tissue, creating a cycle that results in frequent headaches and other types of discomfort.
New Jersey Headache Institute
At the New Jersey Headache Institute, our staff is capable of diagnosing and treating different types of headaches and chronic migraines that are associated with neck injuries like whiplash. We use state of the diagnostic tools and techniques to provide our patients with the best possible care and it is our goal to help them address whatever health issues they may be experiencing and improve their quality of life. Please contact us today.