Although whiplash injuries are quite common, research is only beginning to describe the diverse symptoms that can develop when the neck has experienced trauma. Even a minor whiplash injury, such as may occur while playing sports, can have a significant impact on the delicate structures of the neck.
Position sense or balance is how we keep upright and move through space. When it is disturbed, we may feel unsettled, dizzy or even get nauseous. Many studies have shown that when the spine is injured, a person’s balance can be affected. How is this so? Balance is maintained by a complex interaction between your inner ear, your eyes, and the nerves in your neck (Sports Med 2008;38:101,Armstrong. et al.). When the neck is injured, you may use your eyes more to correct for any position sense or balance deficits, which may result in dizziness. About 1/3 of older persons suffer from dizziness, and whiplash or other neck traumas may represent a significant reason why.
A good test to see if your balance is impaired is as follows: Can you stand on one leg for fifteen seconds? Is it equally easy to do this on the other leg or is it easier to maintain your balance on one leg? Can you stand on one leg with your eyes closed? Obviously, you should try this very carefully. You may want to do this with a friend nearby so you do not fall. Do you immediately lean and have to put your other foot down? If you cannot stay upright, it may be sign that your position sense has been affected by a spinal problem.
Chiropractic care can improve the posture and mobility of the neck. This may have an impact on balance because joint dysfunction in the neck can send altered nerve signals to the brain centers that coordinate position with your eyes and ears. Although there is limited research in this area, most doctors and therapists recognize the importance of introducing movements early-on when a balance problem stems from a neck injury.
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