Auto Injuries

Motor vehicle accidents can result in a number of very diverse and complex injuries and symptoms. This is due to the diversity of factors involved with the each motor vehicle accident- i.e. vectors of the collision, size of the vehicles involved in collision, pre-existing health conditions of victims, age of victims, size and strength of victims, etc. The following list comprises many of the most commonly sustained injuries and symptoms following motor vehicle accidents:

  • Whiplash
  • Headaches
  • Middle back pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Head injuries and associated symptoms
  • Extremity pain, numbness, tingling
  • Symptoms arising from injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents were once thought to present immediately following the accident. However, research and clinic experience now demonstrate that a delay of symptom onset seems to be the norm. Also, delay of symptom onset does not eliminate the possibility of severe injury. Many studies have found a significant number of individuals to be symptomatic for many months and even years after a motor vehicle accident. In one such study, 75 percent of individuals remained symptomatic 6 months after the accident. Another study, published in the European Spine Journal, found that during the period of time between the first and second years following a motor vehicle accident over 20 percent actually had their symptoms worsen.


    Whiplash

    Whiplash is the most common injury sequelae following motor vehicle accidents. Speeds of as little as 5 mph have been documented to result in whiplash injuries. And although whiplash is prevalent in today's society with hundreds of studies on the topic, it is not yet fully understood.

    What is whiplash?

    The term "whiplash" was coined by Dr. Harold Crowe back in 1928. It is used to refer to: i. the hyperextension/hyperflexion injury of the neck, and ii. the resulting symptoms of this injury - sustained from a motor vehicle accident. This forwards-flexion and/or backwards-extension of the neck essentially results in a soft tissue sprain/strain injury to the structures within the cervical and upper thoracic spinal regions. When the initial impact occurs and the head is forced in either excessive flexion or excessive extension, protective reflexes cause the muscles of the neck to forcefully contract which "whips" the head back in the opposite direction. The resulting injury often leads to numerous symptoms, many of which are confusing and poorly understood.

    What symptoms are associated with whiplash?

    Symptoms following a "whiplash" accident include:

  • neck pain, tenderness, achiness and stiffness
  • cervical muscle spasms
  • tenderness and nodules in superficial cervical musculature
  • cervical reduced range of motion
  • post-traumatic headaches (including migraine and muscle-tension headaches)
  • shoulder and interscapular pain
  • hand and finger pain, numbness and tingling
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty swallowing/feeling of lump in throat
  • dizziness and balance problems
  • lightheadedness
  • post-traumatic depression and cognitive problems
  • What structures are damaged in whiplash injuries?

    Whiplash injuries can damage just a few structures or many, depending on the severity of the accident and direction of the injurious forces, to name a few. Some of the more common pain-sensitive structures that are damaged include:

  • outer layers of the intervertebral discs
  • intervertebral ligaments
  • capsule of the facet joints
  • anterior longitudinal ligament (runs down the front of the vertebral bodies-prevents excessive extension)
  • posterior longitudinal ligament (runs down the back of the vertebral bodies-prevents excessive flexion)
  • nerve root dura
  • extensor spinal musculature
  • flexor spinal musculature: the colli and scalene muscles
  • Damage to any of these structures results in tissue inflammation, tissue edema, microscopic hemorrhage, and the release of noxious chemicals such as histamine, prostaglandins, substance P, and kinins which further hypersensitize already painful and injured tissues.

    How is whiplash treated?

    The most important aspect of a successful treatment program involves active patient participation and patient compliance to the agreed upon program. When treatments focus solely on pain-relief and not tissue rehabilitation or when patients fail to comply with the prescribed treatment plan, the chronicity of problems becomes highly likely.

    The chiropractic approach to treating whiplash injuries is highly successful compared with other health care professionals because chiropractors focus on rehabilitating the injured tissues and restoring optimal function. This is reflected in the high patient satisfaction scores that chiropractors have received in "patient satisfaction surveys" performed on MVA patients. Chiropractic care is a safe, natural, noninvasive, and addresses the cause of the symptoms. Our treatments also include active patient participation, and in some cases, lifestyle modifications. While we do focus on eliminating pain early on, we realize that in addition to pain - optimal tissue healing, restoration of normal function, and prevention of future recurrences and reinjuries - are equally important.

    Our treatments are highlighted by our use of many gentle and highly effective spinal adjustive techniques. When used properly, these techniques allow us to safely and effectively reduce pain levels, reduce muscles spasms, eliminate inflammation, restore normal joint motion and biomechanics, prevent or minimize degenerative processes, and minimize the likelihood of future recurrences.

    We also incorporate many natural and safe adjunctive therapies into our treatment plan to further assist in the healing process. Some common adjunctive therapies include ice therapy, heat therapy, physical therapies like therapeutic ultrasound and muscle stimulation, spinal traction, soft tissue mobilization, spinal exercises and stretches, and nutritional supplementation.

    How long do whiplash treatments take?

    As with any other injury, there are a number of factors which influence the treatment length of whiplash injuries:

  • the severity of the injury
  • when treatment was initiated
  • patient compliance to the treatment plan
  • the nature of the accident
  • the size and speed of your vehicle and other vehicles involved
  • whether or not seat belts were worn
  • whether you were aware of the impending accident
  • the height of the head rest
  • the age of the individual
  • the size and strength of the cervical musculature
  • the presence of preexisting spinal conditions
  • The easiest and most effective way of eliminating pain and preventing residual and chronic problems is to start care immediately following the accident. As you allow time to slip by without seeking appropriate treatment, your injuries become more permanent and far more difficult to manage.