The pain can start immediately or develop days, weeks, or sometimes even months later. Symptoms can vary widely among individuals age, gender and other health factors. Most people with whiplash begin to experience the effects within 6-12 hours after the accident. You may leave the scene of the accident or trauma counting your blessings that you weren’t seriously injured, only to wake up the next morning with moderate-to-severe pain and stiffness in your neck, shoulders and a throbbing Headache. This is because your adrenaline levels have now regulated and returned to normal, and your body has taken stock of the damage and sent in the necessary healing resources, which causes inflammation, muscle spasm and guarding. This is where the pain and stiffness can begin. This delay onset of symptoms is referred to as Late Whiplash Syndrome. According to the Journal Pain Practice (2008), it is estimated that 6.2 percent of all Americans currently suffer from Late Whiplash Syndrome.
The National Safety Council (NSA) states that approximately 12 million car accidents occur annually involving 20 million cars. The Mayo Clinic reported 90 percent of injuries effecting the neck region. Rear end collisions cause more Cervical injury as compared to front or side collisions and Studies show that women are 5 times more likely to be injured than men.
So how does my neck hurt so much after a minor accident? While the vehicle only showed minor bumper damage, but I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck. After 29 years in Chiropractic practice, this a very common statement that I hear in these type of auto accidents. One of the biggest misconceptions is that car damage correlates with injury and severity. It would make sense that a car accident with little damage to the car should only result in minor injury, right? However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Cars are designed to reduce damage thru plastic deformation or absorption. Remember this transfer of energy has to go somewhere which usually ends up in the driver or passengers delicate spinal regions.
When it comes to car accidents, there is overwhelming evidence that shows there is no correlation between injury severity and car damage. Most cars can withstand a collision of 12-MPH showing little to no property damage. However, the Spine Research Institute of San Diego estimates 60 percent of injuries from car accident occur at speeds between 6-12 MPH. When property damage is minimal, it means the car did not absorb the energy from the accident; instead, the energy is transferred to the occupants, resulting in spinal injury. According to research from Peugeot S.A./Renaust Laboratory of Accidentology and Biomechanics, the risk for whiplash injury is actually greater when below 9.3 MPH compared to speeds above it.
If you are involved in an auto accident, it is important have a complete chiropractic consultation and examination soon after the accident to determine the extent of your injury. Don’t wait and just think it to go away. Research shows that early assessment and treatment reduces scar tissue formation, long term chronic pain, less time off from work and faster healing times from whiplash injuries. Thanks for reading, Dr. Joe