Whiplash: The Effects of Car Accidents

Many of us have had our fair share of car wrecks, from small fender benders to high speed crashes. Regardless of the accident, when a vehicle changes speed or direction instantly, jarring your neck, injury is sustained. And vehicle damage is not usually proportionate to the extent of injury. Other than body parts striking the vehicle, acceleration-deceleration injuries are the most common and will be discussed here.

Injury occurs in two ways. The first happens when the person is not ready for the collision and the joints, ligaments, and muscles are stretched beyond their limits. The second is when the accident is anticipated, the person tries to fight the whiplash and force wins, usually damaging the supporting muscles of the spine. After injury, healing follows four fairly predictable and usually overlapping stages.

During stage 1 (from 12 to 72 hours) significant swelling and pain limits motion and causes pain; support, rest, and ice are the go-to therapies here. Stage 2 (between days 2 and 4) swelling decreases, but ice is still important as well as the start of modest range of motion exercises. Stage 3 (around day 5 up to 6 months) indicates the need for more aggressive range of motion, treatment and prevention of internal scar tissue, as well as starting stability work. Stability work includes light resistance exercises specifically designed for each person’s needs. Internal scar tissue formation, sort of like a scab on a cut externally, should be treated in these injuries by manual therapies. While this internal micro-scarring is necessary, when left untreated it sometimes causes lingering joint, muscle, and neurological symptoms. Stage 4 (6 weeks up to 1 year) is also called the remodeling stage. In this stage the tissues sort of “sure up” or tighten up after being over-stretched and clean up of some of the scar tissue. Active movement training is mandatory. At this time, muscle imbalances and abnormal sensations, such as tingling or numbness due to scarring should be diagnosed and treated.

At In Motion Spine & Joint Center we treat scar tissue with Active Release Technique® and Graston Technique® and rehabilitate proper movement patterns and muscular weakness with state-of-the-art rehab techniques. Whether you’ve had an accident or not, I hope this entry of Get In Motion has helped everyone understand the effects of acceleration-deceleration traumas. If you should have any further questions about injuries please contact us at 615-302-4747 or info@imsjc.com and feel free to visit WWW.IMSJC.COM.