You’re stopped at a red light waiting for your turn, and then it happens. Someone rear-ends you. Simple auto accidents like this happen all the time. Most of the time, people are more concerned about the damage to their car than the potential damage to their body. But what really happens to your body if you’re in a minor car accident?
Everyone has heard of whiplash, but car accidents are capable of producing headaches, mid or low back pain, and much more. Most people associate these symptoms with a serious accident, however, a more minor accident can also cause damage and serious symptoms. No matter what the speed of the accident, a sudden jolt to the body is capable of causing serious problems.
When you are in a car that is hit from behind, your body is suddenly jerked forward and then jerked back. The sudden forward movement can cause your neck to bend forward. This can cause damage to the muscles and ligaments in the back of the neck. The sudden backward movement can cause your neck to snap backwards. This can cause damage to the muscles and ligaments in the front of the neck. If you are looking over your shoulder or to the side when the accident happens, the same forward and back motion of the neck takes place but may damage different tissues.
Also, if you have your seatbelt on, one side of your body is restrained. This means when your body moves forward, one side may go further than the other side. This can create a twisting of your body and can damage different muscles or ligaments throughout your midback or neck. The ligaments, muscles, and discs in the low back can also be hurt during the sharp forward and back movement of an accident.
What happens to the ligaments and muscles of the spine when they are damaged? Some of the fibers in the ligaments and muscles are actually torn and overstretched. This is called a sprain/strain injury. It is similar to when you sprain an ankle. When you sprain an ankle, the ankle swells and becomes stiff while it heals. The same thing happens in the spine, but you just can’t see it because it is happening deep within the body.
Another thing that commonly happens because of an accident, is a straightening of the normal neck curve. Normally the neck has a small curve in it. The sharp forward and back movement during an accident can jar the neck and actually straighten out the normal curve. When the neck is straight instead of curved, it is more likely to develop early arthritis. And as we all know, arthritis is bad news.
So what symptoms should you look for after a car accident? The most common symptoms are stiffness and achiness. Stiffness and achiness are due to the swelling that is caused by a sprain/strain injury. You may notice pain or stiffness immediately, the next day, or up to 1-2 weeks after the accident. Each person and each accident is unique, so the time for the onset of symptoms varies widely.
Another common symptom after an accident is a headache. Generally these headaches are at the base of the neck and may go up over the head into the temple area. Again, headaches can start immediately after the accident or it may take days or weeks to develop. Finally, some accidents result in even more serious symptoms. Dizziness, sharp neck or back pain, and arm or leg pain can result from car accidents. Other serious problems like fractures and hidden nervous system damage can also result from car accidents.
So what should you do if you’ve been involved in an accident? Because of the potentially serious problems, you should have you condition evaluated as soon as possible. Chiropractors are experts at assessing the spine and can determine if any damage to the muscles, ligaments, or normal spinal curves has occurred. Chiropractors are also capable of providing safe and effective treatment for spinal sprain/strain injuries. When you have a spinal sprain/strain injury, relieving pain and restoring normal motion is important to ensure the injury heals properly. Gentle chiropractic adjustments and other physical therapy can be used to help maintain proper motion, relieve pain, and promote proper healing.
To determine if chiropractic care could help you relieve pain and recover from an auto accident, or to speak with a chiropractor in the Edwardsville, IL area, call Dr. Emily Brueggeman at 618-692-0000. Ask for a free Invitation to Health which includes a consultation and screening to determine if your case is a chiropractic case.