Auto Related Traumatic Brain Injury

Auto-related injuries can involve the neck, back, and extremities but additionally, the brain can be injured.  Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can occur when the head suddenly hits an object such as the steering wheel, headrest, or windshield.  Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on severity of damage to the brain.  Severe symptoms often result from a piercing injury to the skull.  Often, the moderate and severe injuries may be recognized initially in the emergency room and evaluated by the ER doctors and possibly a neurologist and sometimes with computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain to look for bleeding or skull fracture.  The milder cases of traumatic brain injury may be missed initially until further symptoms develop. 

After a motor vehicle collision resulting in head trauma, a person may or may not lose consciousness but still have a traumatic brain injury.  The most common severity of brain injury after motor vehicle accidents would be a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  Concussion is a subset of MTBI.  MTBI symptoms may include dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, headache, blurred or tired vision, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), altered taste, fatigue, sleep changes, mood changes, confusion, lack of concentration, trouble thinking, and poor memory.  Frequently, patients are not aware of their MTBI or they ignore these symptoms as they do not feel their accident was strong enough to cause a brain injury and the resulting symptoms.

MTBI can also cause postural and gait changes.  It has been demonstrated that patients with MTBI walk slower and have reduced postural control.  These motor changes have been seen within 48 hours to two weeks post injury.

Chiropractic management for all auto injuries would start with obtaining a thorough history of the traumatic event and resulting symptoms, including family, social, and past health histories.   Assessment of motor and neurologic function will be made by way of physical examination and questionnaire.  The history and exam are able to reveal evidence of MTBI.  Our chiropractor is trained in recognizing MTBI whether or not the patient knows they have a brain injury.  She has an advanced Certification in Whiplash and Brain Injury Traumatology from the Spine Research Institute of San Diego. 

Whiplash or acceleration/deceleration injuries to the neck and back often occur along with MTBI and will be treated at the same time.  In office treatment may include chiropractic manipulation, therapeutic massage, electrical muscle stimulation, specific rehabilitative exercises, and nutritional supplementation.  Aerobic exercise may be prescribed as it has been shown to increase growth factors in the brain important for brain healing.  Further evaluation and treatment by a functional neurologist may be necessary in some cases and if recommended an appropriate referral will be made.

If you have been in an auto accident and believe you hit your head, seek medical care.  Our chiropractor can provide evaluation and appropriate management of your injuries.  We are located in SE Portland and Beaverton / Aloha, OR.


NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page.  Retrieved on September 26, 2019 from

Lehman, J. (2016, January 16). Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion: An Invisible and Confusing Condition. ACA News. Retrieved from:

Musnick, D. (2019). Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Functional Medicine Approach to Healing the Brain. Townsend Letter, (430), 39–44.