Concussion Head Injuries and the Atlas – A Case Study
A 16-year-old girl presented to my office with complaints of dizziness, inability to concentrate, headache, and neck pain for 3 months. All symptoms began after she fell off a horse and struck her head against the ground.
After her fall, she went to the ER and had a CT scan performed on her head to rule out any potential bleeding in the brain. She was stabilized and sent home with a diagnosis of a concussion.
She began to dizziness, generalized malaise, and neck pain immediately after the head injury. She was unable to do more than 30 minutes of school work at a time and had missed many days of school. After several weeks of being unable to concentrate and persistent pain, she sought a neurological consult.
Most testing was unremarkable. She was recommended vestibular therapy with a physical therapist and psychological testing to manage the concentration and memory problems.
She was also seen for accupuncture, massage, and traditional full spine chiropractic care.
She stated that the accupuncture helped a little bit with the neck spasms, but she got no improvement from chiropractic or vestibular therapy.
With head injuries, what may people don’t realize is that it is extremely difficult to take a substantial blow to the head without disrupting the structure of the neck. After hearing her situation, we decided to see if a shift in her head and neck was affecting her brain.
We did a series of x-rays and scans to determine if her neck was the source of her problems. The x-rays showed a substantial twist in the top bone in the neck. With the degree of twisting at the top of the neck, it’s likely that the neck was affecting the way that blood was going in and out of her brain.
The x-ray shows that the twist in her neck went from 3.69 degrees down to 1.5 degrees after her first correction.
The scans on the right help us establish baseline measurements for how her nervous system responds when she is sick. The bottom scans show abnormal muscle tension and abnormal heat distribution in her spine. THe top scans show how her body responded after 5 weeks of getting her neck corrected. The muscle tension is gone and her heat distribution is just about perfect.
After 6 weeks of check ups, the patient was able to study for 2-3 hours at a time without a problem. She could also go days without dizzy spells, and the intensity of dizzy spells were decreasing as she went on.
Even more exciting was the fact that she began to feel stable enough to ride her horse and compete in 2 competitions as her balance started to improve.
Take home messages
1. Anytime you’ve had a head injury, the structure of your neck is likely to be compromised.
2. Though this girl felt symptoms immediately, many people will get a whiplash, hit their head against an object, or slam their head against the ground and not feel any obvious symptoms.
Many times after going through someone’s history, we can trace their problem to some sort of accident from months or years before hand. Once the brain has enough deprivation, your body will eventually hear about it.
3. This patient responded very quickly, and she can thank her youth for that. Many people who have these types of problems in their 40’s and 50’s may take more work to stabilize.
Waiting till a problem gets unbearable is a recipe for needing a lot of care and treatment in the long term. The sooner a problem is caught, the easier it is to correct.