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What To Do About Growing Concerns Around Head and Neck Injuries!

Have You Ever Had A Neck Injury?

Anyone who has had a neck injury knows they are not fun at all. The pain alone can be such a hinderance while we heal.

The impact it can have on your daily life from being able to sleep all the way to just being unable to turn your head while you are driving is a real nuisance.

You might be thinking, what does concussion have to do with neck injuries?

Well, what if I told you that neck injuries that are caused by a bump, jolt, or blow to the head can have a direct link with sustaining a concussion as well.

This is because the force required to cause the neck issue (ie a whip lash) is actually higher than the force needed to sustain a concussion. Therefore, most whip lash injuries will have some degree of concussive symptoms too as the brain moves about the skull on impact. 

For anyone who has had a concussion will know how bad they can feel with symptoms of:

  • headaches,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting
  • confusion, and
  • memory loss. 

Research shows that concussion is a growing issue for the Australian population and that there are some serious long-term effects of multiple concussions.

Thankfully, the majority of mild neck injuries and concussions go away with time but for some people the effects can linger for weeks or even months.

Even those who originally think the cause was only mild at the time.

Neck injuries that aren’t treated appropriately have also been shown to increase the risk of future neck pain, disability, chronic headaches along with altered balance and proprioception (your awareness of the bodies position in space).

If you add in one or multiple concussions, concerns are now being seen for your long-term health.

These long-term or potentially permanent issues can vary from

1. Trouble concentrating

2. Memory issues 

3. Personality changes 

4. Sleep disturbances

5. Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and other psychological issues 

6. Persistent or episodic headaches 

So, are you one of these people? 

It doesn’t matter whether you have sustained a blow to this area once, or multiple times.

It is now worth beginning treatment to reduce the impact of concussion and neck pain to avoid any of the above standing issues. 

You might be thinking, neck injuries and concussions are for people who play contact sport?

What if I told you that’s not necessarily true!

A recent study in Australia has highlighted that although injuries to the neck and concussions are prevalent in many contact sports, but only 16% of concussive injuries occur within a sporting context. 

That means that in Australia 84% of concussive injuries occur outside of sport.

Wow! 

You didn’t expect that did you? 

The majority of these injuries occur outside of the field and in more day-to-day situations then you think. The same study highlighted that in Australia the majority of these injuries occur from falls at home, the workplace, assault or motor vehicle accidents during daily driving. 

What can I do to prevent issues in the future?

With the growing concern of the long-term effects of our cognitive function and wellbeing, all of this information can sound a bit overwhelming but luckily there is something that can be done.

A growing amount of research has shown us some positive steps we can take in preventing future concussive issues and neck pain from occurring.

So, what are they?

Here are some steps that can be taken to improve overall neck health and reduce future incidents of neck injuries and concussion.

1. Research has shown overall neck strength, through all ranges of the neck motion, can reduce chances of future injury and pain 

2. There is evidence to show that overall improvements in neck musculature size can help to reduce pain, disability and re-injury. 

3. Restraining of head on neck reduces the intensity, frequency and duration of the headache. Often restoring function back to normal with little to no impact of headache of day to day living. 

4. Vestibular and ocular re-training (eyes and head position in space) through specific exercises improves quality of life and reduces impact of things like chronic headache, improves psychosocial health with things like improved mood and ability to enjoy daily life. 

5. Changes in posture have shown to improve the body’s ability to absorb force by positioning the ears in line with your shoulders. 

6. A graded return to training following concussion is required to prevent further damage and injury to the brain. 

7. Our brain is sensitive to low blood sugar, poor nutrition and being dehydrated. Having healthy and consistent meals throughout the day and drinking the recommended amount of water per day can reduce symptoms of concussion and reduce incidences of acute neck injuries. 

8. Reduce hazards around the workplace and home that could potentially lead to falls. 

9. Wearing seat belts in cars is a legal requirement, but still some people don’t use them. So if you are reading this it’s worth it for more reasons than just saving your life. 

10. Replace a damaged helmet. Even one blow to a helmet with falling off while riding a motorbike is enough to damage the structure and future potential absorption of forces across the helmet. This increases the risk of worse injury with successive or future falls or crashes. 

In conclusion, there is a growing number of cases of neck and concussive injuries in sport, but also in everyday life. These now have significant impacts concerns for future implications for cognitive and mental health, as well as quality of life and pain. 

Luckily there are steps that can be taken to improve your chances of these issues later in life with postural changes, improvements of overall strength and muscle size of the neck musculature, diet and hydration, safety gear and hazard reduction. 

If you are like many people whose only exposure to neck exercises are from Facebook or Instagram videos of a big dude with a neck harness and chains around his neck pushing lots of of weight plates with his neck. You would be wrong to think this is the only way to train the neck. 

It is possible to do very specific head and neck exercises that are much more beneficial and effective. These are also easy to implement neck exercises into your current training or daily life. 

So if you want help with neck exercises and the programming of them to help build strength and musculature size, make sure to come in or give us a call at Fighting Fit Physiotherapy and we can get you in touch with a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist based on what your needs are. 

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