Study: Psychological Trauma & Whiplash

According to a new study, PTSD can aggravate the damage from the whiplash and further increase the pain. ”We have found that PTSD leads to an increased bodily awareness and a fear of movement,” says psychologist Tonny Elmose Andersen, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark. “This is why PTSD patients tend to feel stronger pain than they otherwise would.”
Psychological traumas intensify whiplash in Science Nordic.

They listed a few possible connection between psychological trauma and whiplash. Here are a few that comes up for me:

  1. Psychological trauma (triggered beliefs) create muscle tension, which can further injure already injured tissue and also prevent it from healing (reduced blood flow etc.)
  2. Psychological trauma creates a heightened state of alertness and tension which may fuel beliefs about the injury: What it means (I won’t be able to work, I won’t get better, I will stay in pain, I will suffer), how it will unfold in the future, and even what it is (it’s pain, it’s an injury). All of these may intensify the experience of pain, and may not support healing.

I see the researchers made a connection from #2 to immobility, which in turn is less-than-ideal for healing. That’s probably true as well. It may be they included #1 in their original research article (although it was left out in this news reporting).

Seems that a combination of traditional therapy (massage, acupuncture tc.) and TRE (to release tension and trauma) may be helpful here, starting gently and early after injury. As usual with TRE, it’s helpful to be gentle and progress slowly, and, in this case, perhaps focus the tremors to the hip and leg area for a while to keep the neck comfortable.

And if this (massage, TRE, releasing tension, supporting healthy muscles) is done before any injuries, then even better.

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