New Treatment For Whiplash Induced Headaches

Specialties Pain


New Treatment For Whiplash Induced Headaches

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- March 1, 2001 -- A team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, lead by Curtis W. Slipman, MD, head of Penn's Spine Center, has demonstrated a new and successful treatment for headaches linked to C2-3 joint injury, or whiplash. In a retrospective study focused on eighteen patients who had daily pain, a steroid was injected through a small needle directly into the neck joint's synovial cavity lining to reduce inflammation. The result was "almost miraculous for 11 percent of patients who were completely free of pain afterward," said Dr. Slipman. Another 61 percent had fewer than three headaches a week that were relieved by common oral pain medicine.

The research will be published in the March, 2001 American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

"That means we were able to help about 75 percent of those patients who had coped with unrelenting head pain 24 hours a day" continued Dr. Slipman. They woke up with pain and went to sleep with pain for an average of three years. And whatever medication they took, it did nothing. I'm talking about narcotics, aspirin, ibuprofen, percocet, darvocet, morphine - no impact on the headaches at all. We took these individuals and injected their C2-3 joint on an average of two times and had superior success.

Since migraine headache and joint C2-3 symptoms are similar - pain behind the eye, in the forehead and severe nausea - Dr. Slipman does a test injection of a local anesthetic in the joint to see if headache is relieved. When joint damage is the cause, the headache will usually subside in a few minutes.

"There are a lot of people out there who are experiencing disabling headaches and think they have migraines or concussion pain, but in fact are treatable. I work closely with physicians who take care of head trauma. For them, it's an eye opening experience when some headaches disappear after we treat the C2-3 joint."

Americans spend millions of dollars each year to cope with headaches. Many of those headaches are linked to whiplash in car accidents, sudden falls or head trauma. In 1994 alone, a million drivers were rear-ended and 500,000 were injured. That sudden jolt from behind whips heads back and forth and puts excess pressure on the neck's 14 joints that connect the skull to the spine. One of those joints near the base of the skull is called C2-3. Every year about 30,000 people in car accidents and other whiplash traumas end up with damaged C2-3 joints. Some have unrelenting head pain and quit work, completely disabled.

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