If a person is involved in a car accident, it is very possible that they will experience sudden pain in the neck or back. Some individual’s pain will heal naturally, on its own. Others may require treatment to relieve pain. What may not be apparent is that people involved in a motor vehicle collision may be more likely to have spinal pain in the future. This article discusses spinal injuries from car accidents, some recent research on the subject, and potential treatment options.
There are several types of motor vehicle collisions. In some cases, an unconscious person’s vehicle is struck from behind and they suffer a classic “whiplash” injury to the neck. Others may be where the driver and occupants are aware of an impending impact, brace themselves but spinal injuries to the neck and back are still occurring. Regardless of the type of accident, it is possible for those involved to experience some spinal pain.
When the human body is subjected to trauma from a car accident, several mechanisms of spinal injury occur. Let’s talk about what happens at the anatomical level. Ligaments are tough, fibrous tissues that attach from one bone to another. They allow movement of the bones but must not allow excess movement. If one imagines a guy wire stabilizing a utility pole, it would be a good analogy to the ligamentous structures of the human body.
In a car accident, the ligaments can be sprained. A sprain is simply a tear of fibers. Sprains are mild tear, moderate tear, or severe tear with a completely torn ligament. If the ligaments are damaged, they may not heal with normal tissue, but may partially heal, albeit with weaker scar tissue embedded in the ligamentous structure.
Weak and damaged ligaments allow excess movement between the bones of the spine, which are also called vertebrae. Excess movement between two bones is called hypermobility. Hypermobility for months and years causes wear and tear known as spinal degeneration.
On an x-ray, spinal degeneration shows up as a bone-on-bone narrowing of the disc spaces and bone spurs. This is a classic and objective sign of spinal degeneration.
A recent scientific journal, Analysis and prevention of accidents, May 2020 A systematic research review noted that people involved in a motor vehicle collision may be more likely to develop back pain in the future than those who have not been in a motor vehicle accident.
Chiropractic physicians are trained to effectively evaluate and treat musculoskeletal injuries caused by auto accidents. When visiting a chiropractor, the patient can expect to be asked questions about their injuries, pain, and details about the car accident itself. Next, a physical examination will determine if a patient has objective signs such as muscle spasm, limited range of motion in the neck or lower back, and other neuromusculoskeletal tests. Many times, images such as X-rays and MRIs are obtained.
If chiropractic care is determined to be appropriate, the chiropractor will begin the necessary treatment to best help the patient recover from neck and back discomfort. Chiropractic care can make the difference between successful back and neck pain relief and long-term healing of the spine, compared to those who develop chronic, aching spine pain from not receiving proper care.