Whiplash – Can This Affect My Memory?
“Doctor, is it normal for people after a whiplash injury to notice problems with memory. I can’t seem to remember things I just recently did since my car accident?”
This is a common complaint occurring as a result of a whiplash injury, but it’s not commonly known, leaving those who are suffering wondering, “…what’s wrong with me?” Whiplash is an injury that classically occurs as a result of a car crash at any speed, even at low speed! This is because at low speed, there is little to no damage to the car, and the forces from the crash are not absorbed by the crushing metal. As a result, those forces are transferred to the contents inside the car – that is, the passengers. This sometimes results in a significantly greater injury compared to crashes that occur at twice the speed because the latter results in crushing metal.
The actual injury that occurs in whiplash is caused by the sudden, rapid movement of the head resulting in varying degrees of injury to the neck, as well as to the contents inside the skull – that is, the brain. The brain literally “bangs” into the inside walls of the skull when the head is rapidly accelerated during a car crash. The resulting injury is a concussion. What’s interesting is that most patients injured in a car crash often don’t mention a concussion nor is it usually asked about at the doctor’s office as other, more obvious injuries are dwelt with. The condition is usually referred to by one of two names: post-concussive syndrome or mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).
“Doctor, when I’m reading a book or magazine, sometimes I have to re-read the passage several times before it sinks in. It’s as though I lose my concentration and I can’t focus on what I just read. The other day, I was talking to a group of co-workers and I lost my place in the middle of the discussion and had to ask, ‘…now where was I?’ I notice this is happening a lot since the car accident.”
This can be very embarrassing, frustrating, and scary for patients suffering with MTBI. Other symptoms associated with this include difficulty in focusing (blurred vision), headaches, having difficulty in pronouncing certain words (“tongue twisted”), having difficulty in understanding what was said, difficulty remembering numbers or groups of numbers like phone numbers, addresses, birthdates, and so on. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be very disruptive, making work and everyday tasks challenging.
How long does it last? MTBI can completely clear up in 2 to 6 months without problems or, it can hang on for 2 years or longer, and may even become a permanent residual from the car crash. In one study, continued problems after a 2 year time frame were reported in close to 20 percent of those injured 2 years earlier. This study suggests that about 1 out of 5 may continue to suffer with MTBI and the associated brain-related problems for at least 2 years following a car crash. However, another study reported the long term “higher cognitive function” (such as the ability to communicate through written or spoken language) is usually not affected by whiplash injuries. However, they preface that with by reporting that a more commonly injured group with more mild brain problems was found.
As chiropractors, we are trained to do a thorough history, orthopedic and neurological examination, and ask specific questions about mild traumatic brain injury. It is important to discuss this information with those suffering from whiplash injuries as frequently, MTBI patients think something is “…seriously wrong” and harbor unnecessary anxiety.
We realize that you have a choice in where you choose for your healthcare services. If you, a friend or family member requires care for whiplash, chiropractic care is a logical first choice and we would be honored to offer our services to you.
You may be a candidate for chiropractic care for whiplash. For a free, no obligation consultation, call 732-984-9597