If a person is involved in an automobile crash, they may very well experience sudden pain in their neck or back. Some individual’s pain will heal naturally, on its own. Others may require treatment to bring pain relief. What may not be apparent is that those involved in a motor vehicle collision may be more likely to have spinal pain in the future. This article discusses auto crash spinal injuries, some recent research about the subject and possible treatment options.
There are various types of motor vehicle collisions. Some are where an unaware person’s vehicle is struck from behind and they suffer the classic “whiplash” injury to the neck. Others may be where the driver and occupants are aware of an impending impact, they brace themselves but spinal injuries to the neck and back still occur. Regardless of the type of accident it is possible that those involved will experience some spinal pain.
When the human body is subjected to trauma from an automobile crash several mechanisms of spinal injury occur. Let’s discuss what happens on an anatomical level. Ligaments are tough, fibrous tissues that attach from one bone to another. They allow movement of the bones but should not allow excess movement. If one imagines a guy wire stabilizing a utility pole this would be a good analogy to the human body’s ligamentous structures.
In an automobile accident, ligaments can be sprained. A sprain is simply tearing of fibers. Sprains are mild tearing, moderate tearing or severe tearing with a ligament is fully ruptured. If 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, damaged ligaments allow excess motion between the bones of the spine which are also called vertebrae. Excess movement between two bones is called hypermobility. Hypermobility over months and years causes wear and tear which is known as spinal degeneration.
On an x-ray, spinal degeneration shows as bone on bone narrowing of disc spaces and bone spurs. This is a classic, objective sign of degeneration of the spine.
A recent scientific journal, Accident Analysis & Prevention, May 2020 noted systematic research review discovered that individuals 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 car accident.
Doctors of chiropractic, are trained to evaluate and effectively treat musculoskeletal injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. Upon visiting a chiropractor, the patient can expect to be asked questions about their injuries, pain, and the details about the car crash itself. Next a physical examination will determine if a patient has objective signs such as muscle spasm, range of motion limitations of the neck or lower back and other neuromusculoskeletal tests. Many times, imaging such as x-rays and MRIs are obtained.
If it is determined that chiropractic care is appropriate, the chiropractor will commence with the necessary treatment to best help the patient recover from their neck and back discomfort. Chiropractic care may make the difference between successful back and neck pain relief and long-term healing of the spine, versus those developing chronic, painful, spinal pain from not receiving proper care.