It’s becoming more and more apparent over the years that “fender benders” are damaging more than just our cars. Ask any of the millions of Americans across the country that have had this common accident and you’ll find there’s a good chance they also have new health problems as a result.
Whiplash is an injury to the ligaments and tendons in the neck and head from a sudden sharp movement. Common symptoms of Whiplash include:
Neck Pain is the most commonly reported symptom following an auto accident. It may be immediate but it is generally delayed in its onset, occurring usually within several hours. Symptoms may commonly be delayed several hours and it is not uncommon for pain to appear several days and occasionally, weeks after the injury. Braaf and Rosner have strongly emphasized that symptoms may be delayed months or even years. Several authors have reported a higher incidence of injury in women than in men. One possible explanation may be that men generally have a heavier musculature in the cervical and thoracic spine and so are more resistant to injury.
Generally the pain is originating from the trapezius muscles. These are frequently strained and often found to be in spasm. Pain can be radiating down the back of the neck and upper back into the midscapular region. This pain may represent one of three different conditions: muscle strain, herniated cervical disc, or sclerotomal pain.
Chest Pain may result from contact with the seat belt.
Low Back Pain is very common following acceleration/ deceleration trauma and has been reported by Braaf and Rosner as occurring in 42% of their patients, with sciatica occurring in 15%. Croft and Foreman (unpublished observations) have described low back pain occurring in 57% of cases of moderate to severe injury resulting from rear-end collision and in 71% of those resulting from side to side impact such as when the victim’s vehicle is struck broadside. The lumbar spine is much more vulnerable to lateral flexion trauma than to flexion/extension in the sadittal plane. As with cervical spine injury, chronic pain syndromes may result.
For some people who have been involved in a car accident, symptoms begin immediately; for others it may not show for hours, days or even months after the accident. In either situation, it is vital to get evaluated as soon as possible and make sure to tell the treating physician about every symptom you are experiencing.
Source: Foreman SM, Croft AC. Whiplash Injuries. The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002
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