Automobile accidents are a significant cause of neck pain, disc injuries, back pain, migraines, and many other conditions. When an car accident happens, most of us don’t have a clear picture of what we should do next. First, make sure all of the occupants of your vehicle are safe and secure. You might need to move the car off the road to a safer location.
Once you are safe, call the police immediately. It is critical that a police report it filed to document the damage to your vehicle and who was at fault in the collision. These facts may become critical down the line if there is any litigation related to the accident.
If you have sustained serious injuries, it may be necessary for you to be taken to the emergency room. They will perform any necessary x rays or CT scans to make sure you don’t have any broken bones or internal injuries. At this point you will most likely be discharged with some pain pills, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories, and told to follow up with your family doctor.
This is where things can become complicated. Many family doctors simply will not see a patient who has been in an accident, even if you have been established at their office for years. This is not because they are rude, incompetent, or lazy, it is because they typically are not comfortable dealing with the legal complications, billing hassles, and other issues related to treating personal injury cases.
For this reason, it is critical that you seek the care of a chiropractor who is skilled in treating automobile accident victims. Chiropractors are experts at treating musculoskeletal injuries such as whiplash, back pain, headaches, and sciatica. A good chiropractor will be able to order any necessary x rays, MRIs, nerve tests, or other procedures. Although it’s rare that car accident victims will require surgery, your chiropractor will be able to determine if your injuries will necessitate you seeing a surgeon for a consultation.
So if you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, now you know exactly what to do. As soon as you can, contact a local chiropractor to help you on the road to recovery!
Have you ever wondered why chiropractic works? Most people, even those who have seen a chiropractor before, have never been given a good explanation of why the chiropractic adjustment makes them feel better. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of how chiropractic helps millions feel great and stay out of pain!
Improves Joint Movement
The most basic effect the adjustment has is to improve the way the joints in the spine move. Remember the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz? Although I rarely see a patient whose joints are actually squeaking, I have seen lots of folks that are in need of a little “oil”. Rather than lubricating your joints chemically, the adjustment When normal motion is lost this leads to arthritis, disc bulges, and the joint pain and stiffness that countless people experience every day. The chiropractic adjustment is unique in that it is able to specifically target joints that are fixated, or not moving properly, and restore movement. This is why many people will notice an immediate improvement in the way they can turn their head or move their low back immediately after an adjustment.
Stimulates Pain Blocking Nerves
To explain this effect of the adjustment, we’ll condense several hundred hours of graduate level neurology into a few minutes. I have lots of incredibly boring textbooks that discuss this in great detail if you’d like to have more detail on the subject (strangely, nobody has every taken me up on this)! We have nerves in the body that cause pain (nociceptors) and nerves that block pain (mechanoreceptors). The pain blocking nerves are located in high concentration in the tiny muscles that attach between the bones in the spine. Research has shown that the quick stretch that takes place during the adjustment causes the pain blocking nerves to be stimulated, causing a decrease not only in pain but in muscle tightness and spasm as well.
Retrains the Joints
Next time you sign a receipt or a check, pay attention to how it feels. For most of us this is an act that is second nature, and we could do it with our eyes closed. Now take the same pen and try and sign your name with your left hand! If you’re like most people it will feel completely unnatural and look like the average first graders handwriting. Why is it that your dominant hand can write so effortlessly and smoothly, while the opposite hand feels awkward and uncoordinated? Both hands have the same birthday, and they connect to the same brain. Then why the difference? Because your writing hand has been TRAINED to perform that task! As we discussed, if an injury caused you to use your non-dominant hand to write, over time the handwriting would begin to look smooth and natural. This is a process called motor learning, or more simply, retraining the joints. This is EXACTLY want we want to accomplish with your spine! It is also the reason you will be adjusted relatively frequently for a short period of time in the acute phase of care. In order to retrain the joints, they must be treated with a certain frequency. If you were to practice writing once a year with your opposite hand would you ever really improve your signature? Of course not. It’s the same principle with the spine.
The syndrome of whiplash was first described in litigation in 1928. Since that time whiplash has had an unsavory reputation. Many researchers and doctors avoided involvement with whiplash injuries and opinions varied.
Over time, it became clear that complaints of patients sustaining this type of injury were, in fact, fairly consistent. The most common complaint, neck pain, could easily be understood, but other symptoms, such as ringing in the ears, dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, numbness, and back pain, were not so easily explained clinically.
According to research statistics, nearly one-third of all motor vehicle accidents are rear-end collisions. Newton’s first law of motion states that “an object continues either at rest or in a state of motion in a straight line, unless it is acted upon by an external force”. When a vehicle stopped at a red light is hit, the car is moved forward by the external force of the impacting vehicle. This force pushes the seat and driver forward. The neck, which is not in contact with the seat, remains stationary, causing hyperextension of the neck. When the front vehicle stops, the driver is thrown forward.
Although the shoulder harness prevents the driver from hitting the steering wheel or windshield, it forces the head to fly forward in a twisting motion, causing hyper flexion of the neck. Most injuries are a result of hyperextension, when the neck can exceed the maximum physiologic extension of 70 degrees by as much as 120 degrees, stretching some muscles as much as 30%.
The forces exerted on the head and neck with rear-end collisions can be quite high. For example, one G is the force exerted by the earth’s gravity which causes an object to fall at 32 feet per second. Pilots begin to pass out at 6 Gs, and at 8 Gs you are pinned to your seat. If a 150-pound person is subjected to 10 Gs, this is a force of 1,500 pounds. In crash testing, with impacts below 10 mph, the head can be subjected to 10 to 15 Gs for 100 milliseconds.
If the average head weighs 12 pounds, then it becomes a weight of 120-180 pounds. Talk about a headache!
Research involved with the actual injuries sustained by victims of whiplash show tearing of muscles, ligaments, vertebral disc derangement, tears in the ligamentous capsules surrounding the joints, damage to the sympathetic nervous system and peripheral nervous system, occult fractures, mild concussions, and micro-hemorrhages of the brain tissue and spinal cord, as well as stress disorders.
Many of these injuries are imperceptible on MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays. The symptoms range from muscle pain, headaches, jaw pain, vertigo, nausea, visual problems, forgetfulness, and unexplained numbness in the arms and legs, etc.
Symptoms may not present themselves for hours, days, months, or even years after the accident. Scientific evidence supports these characteristic of whiplash injuries. Other studies show that neck pain presents in 65% of patients within 6 hours of the accident, 28% within 24 hours, and 7% within 72 hours, though those people suffering symptoms immediately after the accident are more likely to continue to show symptoms more than 2 years following the initial injury.
People who have pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, and women due to their smaller frame and less muscle density than men, are more likely to be injured, though the speed and size of the vehicles involved, as well as the position of the seat and other factors play a significant role in determining the severity of an injury. Government reports revealed over one million injuries from rear-end collisions in 1990, and estimates project that over 25 years the prevalence of chronic pain from whiplash is more than 9% of the total U.S. population.
To lessen your risk of serious injury, wear your seatbelt, sit up in your seat with your seat in the upright position, and stop thinking of your head restraint as a headrest. The majority of people have their head restraint improperly positioned. Correctly adjusted, your restraint should be about even with eye level, and with no more than a two-inch gap between the restraint and your head.
If you are in an accident, even what appears to be a minor one, after life-threatening injuries have been ruled out, follow-up with a physician who specializes in soft-tissue trauma.
Remember, prevention is always best… drive safely, and watch out for the car behind you.