You just got rear-ended at a traffic stop. Your bumper’s a little bent, but your car is otherwise fine. So are you. At least for the first couple of days.
Then you notice that your neck feels stiff and painful. It seems like a cliché, but you begin to wonder if you have whiplash. Chances are, you do.
Low speeds = high damage
Even collisions that happen at relatively low speeds can traumatize your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones by subjecting them to forces they can’t withstand. According to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, more than half of car accident injuries occur at speeds of just 6-12 mph. That may not sound like much, but it’s enough to stretch and tear your ligaments, tendons, and muscles or even throw your spine out of alignment.
You may not feel anything at the time of your accident because the fear, anger, or shock of being hit or hitting something else floods your body with pain-numbing adrenaline and other endorphins. Once the endorphins wear off a few days later, the pain sets in.
Feeling fine isn’t necessarily a good sign
Drs. Steven Watson and Shannon Darrow, expert chiropractors at Watson Chiropractic, recommend that you and anyone else involved in a fender bender or other car crash get immediate medical evaluation to determine if your spine or supporting tissues have been injured. While contusions and cuts are obvious signs of injuries, internal injuries may not have external manifestations and therefore are easy to ignore.
Even during a fender bender, your head may be thrown forward and backward (hyperextended) or even side to side. Whiplash is actually a sprain or strain of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support your cervical spine in your neck. If you noticed any movement of your head during your crash, get evaluated right away.
Airbags aren’t pillows
Airbags aren’t filled with air, but with nitrogen gas that explodes into action on impact, even at speeds as little as 10-15 mph. Airbags are designed to save your life by stopping you from hitting the dashboard or going through the window during a collision. But they can injure you, too.
When an airbag deploys, it may hit you with a force of about 144 mph. That’s a lot of pressure and stress for your neck to withstand. If your airbag deployed during your accident, see a chiropractor as soon as possible for a comprehensive evaluation.
Seat belts may cause trauma
Like airbags, seat belts can save your life in a low- or high-impact crash. But when your body is thrown against the belt, you may wind up with injuries to your spine and supporting soft tissues. The pressure from a seat belt can also injure your heart, lungs, kidney, and other organs.
Small injuries add up
The collection of injuries to your spine, soft tissues, and organs that can occur during a fender bender can create a substantial amount of pain over time. If you ignore the warning signs of injury and don’t get a medical evaluation, you risk re-injuring yourself and even creating permanent damage.
Even when you don’t see signs of injury and don’t feel pain at first, you may begin to notice changes in your body or behaviors after your fender bender. These subtle changes could be signs of a serious internal injury that could result in permanent injury or a chronic pain condition. Be sure to contact Watson Chiropractic if you experience any of the following after an accident:
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Limb weakness or numbness
- Stiff muscles
- Sore or stiff back or neck
- Dizziness or confusion
- Vision problems
- Urinary problems or bleeding
If you’ve been in any kind of car accident, take it seriously. Get a thorough examination and diagnosis at Watson Chiropractic as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage and chronic pain.