Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I saw a special on TV about cellular memories. They said many painful conditions may be linked to cells "remembering" the injury. Could this explain why I still have chronic head and neck pain after a car accident 10 years ago?

Answer:

It's possible. Candace Pert, a scientist at the National Institutes for Health discovered chemical messengers in the body called neuropeptides. These messengers are chemicals that carry emotions throughout the body in a biologic form. The theory is that cells damaged from an accident or injury have neuropeptides that "remember" what happened.

In the case of whiplash pain neuropeptides seem to be involved. These pain-related neuropeptides have been found in the nerve fibers and joints of people after whiplash injury. Each time the joint moves past a certain point the pain messengers are released. In this way the spine may "re-live" the injury over and over.

This is only a theory at this time. Discovering neuropeptides was like finding the first piece of a large puzzle. Scientists have many other pieces of the puzzle now. They are still trying to put the pieces together for the full picture.

Brian D. Stemper, PhD, et al. Localized Cervical Facet Joint Kinematics Under Physiological and Whiplash Loading. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. December 2005. Vol. 3. No. 6. Pp. 471-476.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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