Motor Vehicle Accidents
A major cause of soft-tissue injuries!
A motor vehicle accident (MVA) (car, truck, or motorcycle) can cause moderate to severe injuries to your body. This includes accidents from being rear-ended, to head-on collisions with other vehicles, people, trees, poles, and houses. One in every thousand people in North America will be injured in a motor vehicle accident this year.
Most MVAs result in some sort of injury to the people in the car. This can vary from serious traumatic injuries, such as broken bones and bleeding, to internal soft-tissue injuries.
Even during a seemingly minor motor vehicle accident, there is a huge risk for serious injury to occur. These injuries most often occur in the tissues and structures around the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines.
Cervical Spine: Your cervical spine is made up of the seven vertebrae that begin at the base of your skull and extend downward. The muscular structures in this area are made up of several small muscles to accommodate the several refined movements we make with our head. This structure makes the cervical spine an area that is prone to injuries.
Thoracic Spine: Your thoracic spine is made up of the twelve vertebrae below the cervical spine, and is connected to your ribs. The thoracic spine functions mainly as a support for the rib cage, and movement within the bones of the thoracic spine are limited, which means that the probability of injury is small. However, injury to the large muscle structures and joints in the upper back and shoulder area can be very serious.
Lumbar Spine: Your lumbar spine is the area of the spine located under the thoracic spine and is usually made up of five vertebrae, but for some individuals can be made up of six. This area is also referred to as the lower back, and is prone to injury as it is a major supportive structure for our bodies.
During a motor vehicle accident, these three areas are the areas most often injured. The vertebrae themselves can be fractured but this is not as common as damage to other structures.
Fascia is the large three dimensional connective tissue that surrounds all the structures within our body. A myofascial injury is an injury that involves the damage of this connective tissue. Myofascial injuries to the cervical spine can cause a host of related pain and injuries to other parts of the body that we would not normally associate with the cervical spine.
Ligaments are thick bands of fibrous tissue connecting your bones and joints. During a motor vehicle accident, the ligaments are usually impacted by being overextended and become very vulnerable to tears.
Spinal Discs are found in between and towards the front of vertebrae, and perform several functions. These discs allow movement in the spine and protect the vertebrae, ligaments, and cartilage joints by acting as shock absorbers.
Facet Joints are also found in between the vertebrae, but towards the back, and their function is to provide stability to the vertebrae. The facet joints in the cervical spine are especially vulnerable to impact during a motor vehicle accident.
The Spinal Cord is the “mother-ship” for the nervous system and begins at the base of the brain and continues along the cervical and thoracic spine. The spinal cord does not continue down into the lumbar spine, however there are several nerves that branch out along the lumbar spine. Injuries to the nerves during a motor vehicle accident can be classified as either direct or indirect nerve damage.
- Indirect nerve damage is damage done to the nerves as a result of another injury or trauma such as the ones described above. For example, an injury to the spinal discs such as a herniated disc can also affect the nerve roots, causing injury and pain in other parts of the body related to the damaged nerve.
- Direct nerve damage, as you may have guessed, is damage done directly to the nervous system, for example in the case of a concussion.
Blood Vessels carry the supply of blood to all the parts of our body. Studies have shown that individuals that suffer from serious cervical injures also have some injuries related to the vascular structures.
Degenerative changes to the spine can be triggered by trauma and injury caused by motor vehicle accidents.
During a motor vehicle accident, remembering certain facts about the accident can help both you and your practitioner understand the injuries you may have sustained. The following factors affect the motion and forces placed on the body at the time of the collision:
- What was the angle of collision?
- What were the speed and size of the front and rear cars at the time of the accident?
- What were the road conditions at the time of the accident?
- What was the occupant’s head position?
- Was the occupant a male or female?
- Was the occupant aware that the accident was about to happen?
- What were the seat and head restraint positions?
- Were the occupants wearing seat belts?
- Was there a secondary collision?
- Were there any direct body impacts?
- Does the occupant have a previous history of injuries?
- When was the initial onset of pain?
You should bring information about these basic factors to your treating practitioner.
- The angle at which your car was hit provides clues as to which tissue structures could have been damaged during the collision. This information helps the practitioner to understand the way the head and neck must have been forced to move based on whether the collision occurred from the front, back, side, or at an angle.
- Obviously, the heavier the rear car is, and the faster it is moving, the more severe the forces will be that are placed on the occupant in the front car. A large truck moving at 5 mph can do much more damage to the occupant than a small car moving at 20 mph.
- If the car in front is large, the occupant may suffer less damage. Occupants of smaller cars are more likely to suffer greater damage in a rear-end collision.
- Road conditions such as visibility, lighting, weather, and type of road are all critical factors that can convert a minor collision into a serious accident. Slippery or wet roads can cause cars to move a greater distance after impact, which in turn can cause greater injury to the occupants of the vehicles.
- The position of the head during impact can also magnify the injuries done to the spine area.
- The spine is affected less if the occupant is facing the front during the collision.
- If the head is turned sideways (to look in the mirror or at another occupant), the spine is much more vulnerable, and injuries are much more likely.
- Research has shown that, for some reason that may include the anatomy of women or the way they sit in the vehicle, women are more prone to injuries during a motor vehicle collision.
- If the occupant of the vehicle prepares for the impact by supporting their body, often the injury is reduced to the spinal areas. However, this rigidity can also cause more damage to other structures of the body, for example arms and legs.
In a rear-end accident, your body is pushed forward and upwards by the car seat. Since your head is not usually connected or touching the seat, it remains in the same position, even though the rest of your body is moving, causing what is commonly known as whiplash.
Many people set their head rest too low, and recline the car seat too far back, resulting in more severe injuries during an accident. By adjusting your headrest properly, you can avoid a great deal of pain if you are involved in an accident:
- It is important to adjusting the seat and head rest to their appropriate position for your height.
- The head rest should support the back of your head, while the seat should support the back.
- Ideally, the top of your headrest should be level with your eyes!
- Seat belts are always important to wear because they truly save lives.
- However, there is evidence that these life-saving devices can also complicate injures during a collision since by restraining your body they can also cause the cervical spine to over-extend during a collision.
- The restraint of safety belts can also cause damage to the soft tissue structures in the shoulders and chest when these structures are forced against the restraint of the belt during impact.
It is important to be aware of these side-effects, and work with your practitioner to resolve injuries caused by these conditions.
- If the accident involved more than one collision, there is the chance for further impact on the body, and minor injuries can become more complex due to the subsequent secondary collisions.
- Injuries can be augmented if the head hits an object during the collision. This sort of direct impact can also increase the chance of a concussion, which can sometimes be accompanied by loss of consciousness.
- Previous injuries or illnesses can increase the injuries sustained during an accident.
- Be sure to provide a complete medical history to your practitioner to ensure that these factors are taken into account during treatment.
- Individuals who experience pain immediately after an accident are more likely to have long-term repercussions.
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -1||Whiplash injuries are very interesting, but frustrating, subject to talk about. There have been more than 10,000 research articles written about this subject. Yet, insurance companies, lawyers, and some physicians still question the validity of this syndrome.|
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -2||In part two of this Blog, we will describe the structures that are commonly injured during a whiplash (hyper-extension hyper-flexion injury).|
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -3||Hyper-Flexion Phase
Next, the car seat springs forward causing the driver’s whole torso to move forward at a high velocity.
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -4||Symptoms
The most predominant symptoms after a whiplash accident are:
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -5||Take Care of the Entire Kinetic Chain
Although early intervention is important, it is equally important to have the the practitioner consider all the areas that could be, or are, damaged in a hyper-extension, hyper-flexion injury.
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -6||The nerve compression associated with a whiplash injury can cause several physiological changes to peripheral nerves especially if this compression is left untreated for a long period of time.|
|Resolving Whiplash with Active Release Part -7||Exercise is a critical component in rehabilitating whiplash injuries. Initially, exercises should be performed within as much of a pain free range-of-motion as possible.|
At Kinetic Health, we have a comprehensive understanding of the biomechanics of MVA accidents, as well as a proven methodology for resolving injuries caused by these accidents. We have found that a multi-disciplinary treatment approach is the most effective for the resolution of whiplash injuries.
In our approach we use a combination of Active Release Techniques, Graston, Chiropractic Manipulation, and massage to heal the injured area. These treatments are coupled with a series of rehabilitative exercises.
Following the healing process, we usually recommend specific strengthening and stretching exercises to bring back strength and flexibility to the affected area.