Injured in an accident?
Know someone who has?
Unfortunately, many of us have experienced the pain and frustration of an auto accident. Most people don’t realize the problem is epidemic in proportion.
Statistics show about 3 million people are injured in auto accidents in this country each year. That’s more than the population of South Carolina. This is a serious public health issue that seems to be swept under the rug. It has been estimated that 7 million crashes go unreported each year.
Many commonly held notions about whiplash are just simply wrong, and like many old wives tales, have no basis in fact. Some would have you believe that whiplash injuries don’t even exist or are minor and heal in a couple of days or weeks. Those that are suffering longer are just trying to exploit the insurance industry.
Here’s the big secret:
About 80% of injuries happen under 12 MPH! Surprised? Most modern cars can sustain a front or rear impact of that speed with little or no visible damage. The car looks fine, so you must be too! Wrong!
So why is it that so many people (about half) involved in these seemingly minor accidents end up with not so minor injuries? There are many factors that may determine whether or not a person is injured. Pre existing weakness, such as degenerative arthritis, prior injuries, or being smaller (female vs. male) among other things, can increase susceptibility to injury.
But the main reason is simply time.
Acceleration is the change in velocity (vehicle speed) over a period of time. Force is equal to the mass of an object (weight of the vehicle) multiplied by its acceleration. In an auto accident, you have a very large mass (2000-5000 pound vehicle) that changes speed very rapidly (200-600 milliseconds). Under these conditions, the connective tissues in your body behave differently than they would during stress at lower rates of acceleration (or deceleration).
If you have ever played with silly putty, you know that if pulled slowly it will stretch, but if you pull it rapidly it will snap! Connective tissues, such as ligaments and joint capsules, behave similarly under rapid stress.
A 5-MPH change in speed can result in 10 to 12g of force. That’s over 10 times the force of gravity in a fraction of a second! If you don’t see it coming, the muscles don’t have time to react and are unable to protect your connective tissues and serious damage to joints, discs, ligaments and bone can occur, but the car looks fine!
Often you don’t feel much pain at first but develop headaches, neck and back pain later. Fatigue and difficulty concentrating often occur and are typically ignored as unrelated.
Ligaments, joints and discs (made up of mostly connective tissue) heal very poorly compared to muscles that have a better blood supply. They may take months to heal even when taken care of properly. Some people experience months and even years of pain.
Remember, we are talking about relatively low speed accidents that may produce little to no visible damage to the vehicle!
Many people are made to feel that their pain isn’t real; after all you should be fine in a few days or weeks, right? Wrong! You are not alone.
Early intervention with specific controlled exercise and joint mobilization has been shown to be better than the traditional treatment of rest and pain medication.
Recent studies indicate that chiropractic manipulative therapy may be thepreferred approach for the management of soft tissue injuries. Chiropractors focus on the relationship between impaired movement of spinal vertebrae and its effect on healing, fibrotic scar tissue formation, and your nervous system. Chiropractic adjustments safely and effectively mobilize joints to reduce excessive scar tissue formation and aid in healing.
When an injury occurs, the body must expend time and energy to heal. The first response of the body is to spasm to guard the injured area. Inflammation is a normal response that stimulates the body to begin the repair process. This process that occurs in the muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues is similar to what happens on the skin when you get a cut. New connective tissue is laid down to mend the gap caused by the tear. Studies show this new connective tissue is usually weaker and on its own will form into a garbled mass we call scar tissue.
While forming, this scar tissue can be stimulated to form better cross-links and be more flexible and stronger by placing specific controlled stresses on the new tissue as it heals. That’s where manipulative therapy, massage and regular rehabilitative exercises come in.
Fibrotic scar tissue, if allowed to form so it limits joint mobility, may cause accelerated deterioration of joints and discs. If you have ever had your arm or leg immobilized in a cast you know the atrophy or shriveling effect this extreme example of decreased mobility can have on your body.
There are other factors to consider such as nutrition, adequate rest and good body mechanics to optimize healing.
Even if your body has already healed and you are still suffering chronic pain, getting treatment has been shown to help. It’s not too late! Manipulative therapy, massage and specific rehabilitative exercises can help.