Prolotherapy treatments for whiplash

Marc Darrow, MDMarc Darrow, MD

Hyper-extended neck injuries, more commonly referred to as whiplash, is a complex problem for patients. A complexity that leaves many frustrated with their health care and some fighting to prove that there is something really wrong with them.

Recent research has shown that whiplash patients are at higher risk for “catastrophizing,” thinking that their pain will not be resolved. (1)

While whiplash can occur from falls and sports impacts, the most common cause occurs in rear-end vehicular accidents. In this type of accident a passenger in the front vehicle will suffer an injury when their neck is violently thrown first backwards from the accident’s initial impact, then forward – hyper-extending it.

Prolotherapy treatments for whiplash

Whiplash – real or not? In the past, medical studies and other legal research started to question whether whiplash injuries were real. The problem for the victim is that sometimes the symptoms of whiplash, headaches, neck pain, dizziness, to name a few, would be slow to develop.

So at the time of the accident, the victim may have reported that they felt great, but then a week later, suddenly, they would start developing pain in their neck, shoulders  and back. They could also develop numbness down their arms, have cognitive problems, lightheadedness and jaw pain. Some would even get blurred vision and ringing in their ears. All this occurred days, weeks, sometimes months later.

Doctors doubt the patients

What happens in a whiplash injury? Your neck curves in an S-shape. In a whiplash injury, such as a rear-end car accident, your head snaps back, then snaps forward. This snapping back and forth can be severe – even in low speed impact. That delicate S-shape, where the neck’s anatomical structures are properly lined up is compromised and severe injuries can occur.

Injuries can be to the vertebrae or the soft tissue that supports them. The neck ligaments can be torn or stretched, the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones can similarly be damaged as well as muscles.

While damage to bones are readily seen in X-ray, damage to the ligaments, tendons, muscles and may not get picked up, even by the most sophisticated imaging devices, MRI and CT scan. This is where the doctors begin to doubt the patients – they look at “film,” the scans, and cannot clearly distinguish an injury. So they have a patient who is clearly in misery, but lack the “objective finding,” they hoped for with scan results. Now it comes down to, 1. Is there something really wrong? or 2. Is it in the patient’s head?

In our clinic we see chronic joint, back, and neck problems all the time. One of the first things we do when we see a patient is confirm or question the results an MRI may show. Numerous medical studies have questioned the accuracy of MRI for soft tissue injury and in our office we use a physical examination, palpating (touching) the patient’s problematic areas to isolate the source of their pain.

Once we find a “hot spot” or “trigger point,” not only do we know their pain is real, but that we can help them with a set of simple dextrose injections into the neck region.

The treatments we use is Prolotherapy and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP). These therapies work by rebuilding the soft tissue of the cervical area. Prolotherapy works by the introduction of a simple sugar, dextrose, into weakened ligaments and tendons to help strengthen these tissues and stabilize the area. PRP is used when advanced deterioration has occurred. Many times these treatemnts are used in conjunction based on examination and patient history.

1. Bostick GP, Carroll LJ, Brown CA, Harley D, Gross DP. Predictive capacity of pain beliefs and catastrophizing in Whiplash Associated Disorder. Injury. 2012 Nov 1. pii: S0020-1383(12)00456-1. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2012.10.007. [Epub ahead of print]

For more information about Whiplash injuries and how we may help please call 310-231-7000

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