Long standing injuries after car accidents

injuries car accidentIt is very common in my practice for new patients to tell me about longstanding complaints that started within a year after a car injury.  I hear over and over how they  never felt the same afterwards. Sometimes, people think they are fine after an injury, but later suffer from chronic pain. This can sneak up: First the pain will come and go, or only gradually get worse. As we talk about their history, it is common for a patient to remember an accident close to their first memory of having their complaint.

The truth is, even small accidents can cause injuries to the soft tissue.  These soft tissue injuries can become permanent and haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Insurance company sponsored studies have shown that injuries can occur at very low speeds (5 mph), while other studies have shown that injuries can occur at speeds as low as 2.5 mph.  While it is important to go to the emergency room after an accident to rule out life threatening injuries such as internal bleeding, punctured lungs, and broken bones, most medical doctors and emergency rooms are not looking for and will frequently miss soft tissue injuries.

X-rays do not show a soft tissue injury, and as a result,  emergency room doctors may give out a wrong diagnosis and treatment.  You may have a soft tissue injury if you are suffering from muscle spasms, headaches, stiffness, numbness or tingling, neck or back pain (even low back), difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and even difficulty with concentration. A soft tissue injury can also create an atlas misalignment, which can cause even more problems.

An accident or injury can tear loose the connective tissues holding our bones in place. The first bone in the neck does not have the bony locks that the rest of the vertebrae have and is the most vulnerable to shifting or twisting out of position. When the  atlas bone is wedged out of position,  it will irritate the spinal cord, creating weakness in many postural muscles. This irritation on the spinal cord can also affect signals going to the organs, affecting blood pressure, breathing, and digestion. The misaligned atlas can also create a dural twist that will cause the sacrum and hips to twist and leg to go short. This creates abnormal wear and tear on the spine and weight-bearing joints of the body.

Injuries will cause microtears on the ligaments and tendons, which in turn create instability in the spine. This instability will cause some to complain that it is hard to keep their head up. Our body, in it’s inherent wisdom, will sacrifice movement for stability. Over time, the bones of the joints in the neck and back will increase calcium buildup and start to fuse together. This is called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.  By reading the progression of the degeneration (osteoarthritis), many doctors are able to identify when the accident occurred.

Using a gentle touch or light tap behind the ear, upper cervical doctors are able to get the atlas back into alignment.  This untwists the dura which allows the hips and legs to become even. Muscles strengthen,  restoring stability and slowing the progression of degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. Pain lessens and function is restored.

If you or someone you know was recently in an auto accident:

  • Get yourself examined by someone who specializes in soft tissue injuries (such as most chiropractors).
  • Get a lawyer who specializes in soft tissue injuries and is not afraid of going to court. While we love to make fun of lawyers, personal injury lawyers are doing a valuable job. They are dealing with the insurance companies and other party so that you can focus on getting well and healing.
  • Consider an upper cervical chiropractor. The upper neck is the most vulnerable area of the spine, and if any other area of the spine is injured, it is highly likely that the upper neck is injured also. Some upper cervical chiropractors also use other procedures that help your body heal injuries not directly related to the upper neck injury.
  • If you are having headaches that are getting worse, immediately go to the emergency room.
  • If you are depressed, irritable, having trouble focusing or reading, or are suffering from memory loss, let your doctors and lawyer know.
  • If physical therapy is not helping or is hurting, see another professional. If the medical doctor gives a wrong diagnosis, physical therapy can aggravate your condition.  Let your doctor know.
  • Finally, avoid drugs.  When you take medications you are more likely to aggravate an injury. By deadening the pain, you can be fooled into thinking that you can do more than you are able to do. Pain is our body’s way of telling us when something is wrong. Also, people on drugs often make bad decisions and many insurance companies will take advantage of this in order to settle early. So if you are taking medications, either prescribed or over the counter ones like aspirin, do not settle your case with the insurance company.

If you were in an accident years ago but still feel that you are not completely healed, give me a call for a free consultation. It is possible to slow the progression of arthritis and degeneration and to improve function.

injuries car accident


Long standing injuries after car accidents

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