LASER THERAPY – AN INNOVATIVE TREATMENT FOR CERVICAL SPINE AND TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES
CLINICAL EFFECTS OF MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS
Patients who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) will probably experience symptoms secondary to intracranial and cervical trauma immediately or at some point subsequent to the episode. Injuries relating to the thoraco-lumbar spine and the joints in the lower regions of the body are generally less common in this type of trauma. Most frequently, MVAs are responsible for injuries to the cerebral hemispheres, cerebellum, brainstem and cervical spine.
In cases where the vehicle is struck from the rear, the accident victim may experience a whiplash-type injury as the neck is abruptly moved forward at the time of collision and then rapidly moves posteriorly, the brain striking the cranium during the process. All the soft tissues in the neck and upper body, including muscles, ligaments and nerves, etc. may also be damaged during this event.
Along with the invariable soft tissue injuries, concussions of varying degrees are a common result of motor vehicle accidents. The latter can cause multiple symptoms to occur at the time of, or long after the accident, often unrelated to the severity of the degree of trauma, even when the patient may not have lost consciousness.
In summary, whenever an external force injures the brain through direct impact or via the acceleration/deceleration forces, symptoms invariably result at some point in time.
In addition to the initial damage at the moment of impact, brain trauma may be accompanied by secondary injuries in which a series of events take place immediately following the event or many weeks or months subsequent to the initial trauma. Reduction of cerebral perfusion, with decreased oxygenation of the hemispheres, edema and elevated intracranial pressure – all contribute substantially to the damage resulting from these episodes.
Symptoms of TBI are both diverse and complex. They vary with the degree of injury and can be termed mild, moderate or severe. Again, delayed onset is not uncommon. Complaints frequently noted include headaches, pain and stiffness of the cervical spine, dizziness, nausea, vertigo, fatigue, light and sound sensitivity, visual disturbances, general apathy, amnesia, emotional lability (crying, talkative), cognitive impairment (slow reaction time, memory loss) and most significantly, loss of mental focus and concentration.
LASER THERAPY IN THE TREATMENT OF MUSCULOSKELETAL AND NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS
Over the past 40 years, Laser Therapy has been increasingly and effectively utilized in the treatment of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, including degenerative disc disease, repetitive stress injuries, ligament and muscle strains, tears, etc. The technology is a non-invasive, light-based therapy that uses a combination of red and infrared light in the form of superluminous light-emitting and laser diodes.
The power output of these devices is significantly below the level of ablative high-intensity laser devices. Particles of energy, known as “photons”, are emitted from the diodes and absorbed by the cell membrane, numerous molecular components within the cell, the mitochondria, etc. Ultimately this process stimulates cellular metabolism in the damaged tissues. Moreover, it resolves inflammation and accelerates the healing process, resulting in the elimination of pain.
In instances where trauma is the dominant factor, injuries of the brain and cervical spine are frequently overlooked. As the brain stem transits the atlanto-occipital junction providing neurological connectors between the cerebral hemispheres and cerebellum to the peripheral areas of the body, the inflammation and compression which may be produced, results in symptoms.
The central nervous system is pivotal in maintaining consciousness and regulating involuntary functions such as the sleep cycle, heart rate, breathing and metabolism, which are affected when trauma occurs.
Traumatic brain injuries and cervical dysfunction often produce concomitant pathologies. Many articles have been published describing the benefits of Laser Therapy in the treatment of acute and chronic cervical pain. Laser Therapy applied to the cervical spine and other associated structures which may be affected, brings significant benefit. The mechanism of action involves irradiation of the cerebrospinal fluid, increasing arterial perfusion of the cerebral hemispheres and provides a potent anti-inflammatory effect, all of which reduce the symptoms caused by both the initial and delayed effects of the injury.
CHRONIC POST-CONCUSSION SYNDROME
A 64-year-old woman presented with post-concussion syndrome 10 years subsequent to an MVA. She experienced a number of symptoms following the accident, including cognitive impairment, visual disturbances, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, numbness/tingling, emotional instability and sensory deficits. She was also experiencing severe pain in the cervical and lumbar spine, including right-sided sciatic pain which she described as “knife-like”.
A course of Laser Therapy was administered over a period of eight weeks over both areas. During this period, no other therapy was being administered.
The patient’s pain levels steadily decreased over the course of this period from an initial score of nine out of ten down to a three out of ten. A number of neurological symptoms that she had initially rated in the severe category were reduced to mild or non-existent levels. These included dizziness, fatigue, emotional lability, feeling mentally foggy and having difficulty concentrating.
Laser Therapy is a proven, highly effective treatment for an extensive range of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. Whereas ongoing research continues to increase our ability to develop appropriate treatment protocols, we have observed that significant benefit can result in individuals who have sustained an MVA. We feel that this approach has unlimited potential in treating these disease entities and are carrying on extensive research in this area. To date, our experience has produced positive results beyond our expectations.