You have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and you are wondering what to do. What type of medical care is most appropriate for your current situation?
Having some understanding of what can happen during this traumatic event can help you make the right decision as you seek treatment for your injuries.
Injuries sustained in car accidents can range from mild to severe. Mild injuries may present as some stiffness and achy soreness whereas severe injuries can result in loss of consciousness, feeling or ability to move. No matter what the level of severity you think your injuries may be, it is always a good idea to have a trained health care provider evaluate and determine what treatment is best for you and will allow you to return to pre-accident status or maximum medical improvement.
Chiropractic care is a common and beneficial form of health care for those involved in car accidents. Spinal injuries and soft tissue injuries near the spinal column are commonly injured when whiplash occurs. When a vehicle strikes another object a force enters the occupant of the vehicle and creates a destructive effect when an S-shaped wave travels up the spine. This force stretches the ligaments and muscles past their normal limits and tearing occurs. The vertebral joint complex is also affected as this force disturbs the normal or proper alignment of the spine and produces misalignment and altered movement patterns. Chiropractors evaluate the spine for these areas of injury and use gentle but effective thrusts to restore proper alignment and joint motion. Therapies such as ice, heat, electrical muscle stimulation, massage therapy and ultrasound may be utilized to promote the healing process. Active care is introduced when the healing process is past the acute phase which may include stretching and exercises. The initial phase of care focuses on reducing inflammation and pain as well as stabilizing the areas of injury. As the acute phase resolves more aggressive treatment is performed with a focus on reducing the amount of scar tissue and restoration of proper biomechanics of the joint/vertebral joint complex. During the final phase focus continues to be on restoration of function and maintenance of proper alignment and joint motion. It is common for treatment to be required 12-18 months after an accident as the spinal region requires retraining and maintenance to reach full recovery status.
Common injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions:
Sprain/strain injuries: these occur when the ligaments and/or muscles are stretched quickly or past the normal range of motion. These injuries require ice, rest and massage initially and later stretching, exercising and possibly massage therapy.
Subluxation: this is a misaligned vertebra or one that is no longer moving with normal biomechanics due to altered joint motion. Manual Chiropractic adjustments are used to treat these conditions found in the neck and back of those who are involved in car accidents.
Disc Herniations: disruption to the outer most fibrous lining of the intervertebral discs of the spine can cause the material inside the disc to push out. This condition can cause a variety of symptoms including localized pain and stiffness, radiating/referred pain, tingling, numbness and/or weakness. Depending on the size and severity of the herniation a variety of treatment may be helpful including Chiropractic adjustments, Physical Therapy, Spinal epidural injections and/or surgery.
Concussion: when an impact occurs during an MVC the human skull stops faster than its contents (brain). When the brain does stop quickly injury occurs producing a chemical change in the brain resulting in dizziness, nausea and possibly headaches. Mild concussions may heal with rest and/or restrictions from strenuous physical activity, screen time or activities which require concentration. Severe concussions may be medical emergencies especially if bleeding occurs producing subdural hematoma.
Dr. Chad Mattila is a Chiropractor at Northwest Spine and Pain Center located in St. Michael, MN. He specializes in the treatment and care of those suffering from injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions and other traumatic events producing similar complaints. If you or someone you care about has been involved in a car accident, do not hesitate to call and schedule an evaluation. Call us at 763.497.0899.