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Posted on 03-31-2017

Why You Need to Be Checked Immediately After an Accident

What is chronic pain? How does it occur? Chronic pain occurs when a joint has been injured, has been poorly treated or not treated at all, and over a period of time has become so dysfunctional that it causes pain and limited range of motion. As a joint becomes injured, it compresses. When it compresses, it starts to function incorrectly, leading to inflammation. When this occurs, the patient experiences pain and restricted movement. Over time, it is likely to get worse.

How does this relate to car accidents?

Very closely in fact. If a person has been in a car accident and has not been treated properly, over time their injuries could get worse. I have treated many patients involved in auto accidents over the course of my career, and have seen many who have been to the ER, got checked out to make sure there would no fractures or life threatening issues and then told to see their primary care physician for follow ups. In most of these cases, these patients have not followed up with their primary care largely because they thought they felt fine and didn’t need to go.

However, this is a big mistake because even if you’re feeling only a little stiff after an accident, there could be long term consequences if things don’t heal correctly.

Take for example a case of being hit from behind at speeds less than 30mph.

  1. You’re doing 30mph, slam your brakes on and are hit by the car behind.
  2. Your car absorbs most of the energy from the impact, but the rest is passed through it.
  3. This energy hits you, throws your head backward, then snaps your neck forward and your seatbelt holds you in place (as it’s designed to). As the energy leaves your body, your head is thrown backward one more time. This is known as whiplash.

At this point, micro tears occur in the fibrous tissues of your neck muscles, ligaments get stretched and while you may experience a little soreness or stiffness at the time of the injury and for a few days after, you may not feel that it is a big deal. You may take some medication to help the pain while you recover, but if you do not get this treated properly at this time, you have the possibility of chronic pain sometime in the future.

The reason for this is simple. If left untreated, those tiny tears begin to heal, but a by-product known as a scar forms between these tears as the muscle tries to heal. This tightens the muscles more, creating spasms and/or trigger points, and the muscles tighten even more. Over the course of time, knots begin to form in the injured area and the tightness reduces range of motion and flexibility. This caused incorrect function in the neck and begins a very slow process of degeneration. Over the years you will likely have degenerative joint disease or disc disease.

So you can appreciate that even a small accident can cause many painful problems down the road. This is why it is so important to come and see us here at Northwest Health Solutions so we can evaluate your injury and help you heal properly. We would rather see you now rather than in 5 or 6 years  with a problem that has become chronic.

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