RANDOLPH, NJ- "At first, I thought it was just a headache,” said Randolph teacher Diane Dayer, recalling her car accident a number of months ago. “But it wasn’t like any headache I had before.”
Last year Dayer was rear-ended on route 46 in Ledgewood on her way to work, two days before the end of the extended school year (ESY) summer program at Center Grove School where she worked as a teacher. The traffic light changed, but the driver behind her didn’t notice she was still at a full stop due to traffic. He slammed into her car, and she was jolted forward then back, hitting her head on the headrest.
When she arrived at school, she thought she was fine. But later in the day she felt nauseated, and her head and neck hurt. A fellow teacher took her to Morristown Memorial Medical Center, where she learned she had a concussion -- a traumatic brain injury that causes internal bruising of the brain. The emergency room doctor recommended no computer, reading, TV or texting, but she didn’t take that advice.
“The next morning it was really bad. It felt like someone had hit me in the front of the head, even though it was the back of my head that bounced off the headrest. I couldn’t go to work, I was nauseated, and my head and neck felt horrible.”
Thinking the headaches and pain would go away on their own, she tried powering through and taking ibuprofen. But after several weeks, she still had terrible headaches.
“They did a lot of listening,” says Dayer. “They let me tell my story, what led up to the headaches and nausea, how I couldn’t concentrate and how it was affecting my job and my life and causing stress. And when I was done talking, it was clear that in order to get back to normal it was going to take more than just a 15-minute exam and a couple of pills.”
“No two headaches are the same,” explains Dr. David Simon of Randolph Pain Relief and Wellness. “Once we understand everything that happened, we can work with patients to choose the best treatments based on their health status and life priorities.”
“Diane had almost all of the painful symptoms you can have from a concussion. Since concussions are caused by a forceful or violent impact, the first step (after ruling out life threatening injury) is usually to correct any biomechanical problems in the cervical and thoracic spine caused by the impact,” says Dr. Simon.
Dayer says that Dr. Dean Curtis, a chiropractor at Randolph Pain Relief and Wellness, began her treatment by locating and correcting the head and neck misalignments caused by the impact from the other car.
These treatments quickly helped her headaches improve, without pain medication. Dr. Curtis explains, “Since ibuprofen can actually worsen bleeding in the brain from a concussion, it’s especially important to avoid pain medications when you have a concussion.”
Her treatment also included physical therapy with Jeff Kessler, who explains that “Whiplash is common after even low-speed car accidents. Physical therapy rehabilitates neck muscles injured by whiplash.”
Her treatment plan also included acupuncture to provide immediate pain relief without over-the-counter or prescription medications. “Acupuncture works by changing how the body perceives pain by reactivating pathways between the brain, muscles and nerves,” explains Shara Resende, licensed acupuncturist.
Roughly a month later, Dayer says she began to start feeling normal again. “Finally feeling like myself again was a blessing. I hadn’t realized it, but the whole time after the injury, I had been out of sorts, not myself. I was so happy to just feel good again.”
Dr. Simon advises: “Don’t ever take a car accident lightly. At first you may think you’re not hurt, or that ibuprofen will take care of it. Even if it seems minor, get yourself checked out by a medical professional. You don’t have to be miserable while your concussion heals.”