I am proud to be a co-author of an study published in the medical journal, Brain Injury that describes a change in the brain of a significant number of individuals who have suffered a whiplash injury.
Patients who have not suffered demonstrable injury to their spine often, over time, have been considered to have no clear cause of their symptoms. Many have been felt to have unsubstantiated injuries and that their symptoms were either psychological or for secondary/monetary gain.
In 95% of normal individuals, the cerebeller tonsils, a part of the brain that sits in the back of the skull and controls coordination, rests above the opening at the bottom of the skull (where the spinal cord passes from the brain into the spine). In 5% of individuals, these cerebeller tonsils can project through the opening (foramen magnum)–essentially meaning that part of the brain dips into the top-most part of the neck. This condition is know as cerebeller ectopia or Chiari malformation. This may cause multiple symptoms including headache, neck pain, numbness and weakness in arms and hands, weakness in legs and bladder dysfunction.
20% who have whiplash have Chiari malformation, study says.
This study has demonstrated that over 20% of individuals who experienced a whiplash injury have cerebeller tonsils below the foramen magnum when an MRI is performed with the individuals in the sitting position. Individuals who do not have a whiplash injury do not show a drop of the cerebeller tonsils in the sitting position.
It is uncertain whether this finding is a causative factor for any of the symptoms of the whiplash syndrome or if the same trauma that caused this brain injury can caused other, yet to be defined injuries that lead to the painful symptoms. Further study is needed before we can say whether surgical intervention is warranted in these cases of cerebeller ectopia.
Speak to your doctor if you’ve had whiplash, or suffer from persistent headache, neck pain, numbness and weakness in arms and hands, weakness in legs and bladder dysfunction.