For most of us, an auto accident is one of the worst things that you can put your spine through.
Picture you are traveling along at 35 mph and a car pulls out in front of you and you hit it. You have gone from 35 mph to 0 mph very quickly, much more quickly than your body can handle.
As a result of this sudden change in speed, force is generated and that force goes through your spine. The force starts in the low back, travels up the mid back and eventually gets to your neck.
Here is where you can help yourself.
If you are sitting in an upright posture and have the headrest positioned properly, you can save yourself a lot of pain and suffering.
When you decelerate, think slow down, very rapidly, your head will move slightly forward and then with great force it will bend backwards as if you were looking up at the ceiling.
If you have the seat back up properly and have the headrest positioned properly, the bending of the neck will be limited, thereby putting the force into the headrest as opposed to your neck and that is a VERY good thing.
Allowing your headrest to work properly require two factors:
The back of your head must be within one inch of the headrest. Any more than that and your head will not touch the headrest immediately after the collision, negating it’s effectiveness.
The top of your headrest must be equal to the top of your head. If the head rest is too low, there will be insufficient support to prevent a whiplash injury.
If you have been in an auto accident, call your trusted chiropractor, me!, or your medical doctor.
The last thing you want to do is ignore car accident injuries. The longer that you wait, the much longer it will take to get you back to your pre-accident state.
Have you ever been in a fender bender? Ever notice how sore you are afterwards?
I have a patient that we will call Pat. Pat was involved in an auto accident recently where she was driving, stopped for traffic and a car hit her from behind going close to 40 MPH.
After the accident Pat reported loss of hearing, headaches, vision problems, neck pain, shoulder pain and arm pain. Needless to say Pat was not feeling good and went to the hospital to get everything checked out. Once cleared from there Pat came to see me in the hopes that I would be able to help her.
I discovered that her neck and midback were completely stuck and swollen, not uncommon after a bad auto accident. Her range of motion was limited to almost zero in every range with extreme pain in every direction.
I got to work by adjusting Pat’s thoracic and cervical spine. After the adjustments, I had Pat do range of motion exercises, posture specific stretching and iced both areas. Within one week, Pat was reporting that she was feeling much better. What I was the most excited about was the 50% improvement in range of motion. 50% in one week! (Yes I know, but for me it is the little things.)
As the weeks went by Pat reported that she was moving and feeling better than she had in a long time, even before the accident. The coolest part of all of this was her focus level.
Prior to the accident Pat told me she had a hard time focusing on tasks for any period of time.
Within 3 weeks Pat felt she was getting more done at work in a shorter period of time. Talk about the brain body connection! When you remove the interference from the body, the brain knows what to do!
As a chiropractor part of my job is taking care of people whom have been in auto accidents. As I have written about before, being in a car accident is one of the most damaging events you can put your spine through and people whom have been in one legitimately need care.
There is a dark underside to these accidents that a lot of people are not aware of. Let’s say you are the driver of a car that rear ends the car in front of you. That person could sue you for injuries sustained in this accident. How bad do they have to be hurt to sue you? Much less than you may think.
Here is where it gets ugly.
The possibility of financial gain has led people to staging accidents. How does this work? You put 6-8 people in a car and pay someone to hit it. The “victims” go to a doctor like myself and run up bills of at least $2,000. That triggers a threshold that allows them to sue the person that hit them. The “victims” ask for a small enough amount that the insurance company settles with them in order to avoid long term litigation.
You may ask, “If it is a small enough amount who really cares?” Not a bad question if it was occasional, however, when this happens hundreds and thousands of times a day, the money becomes very real, very quick.
Here in Massachusetts, a 65 year old woman died in a stage auto accident in 2003 in Lawrence which at that time was known as the auto insurance fraud capital of Massachusetts.
The Lawrence police joined forces with a fraud bureau and went to work on steadily reducing auto insurance losses with the thought being they would be able to reduce the amount of insurance premiums that you and I pay.
Were they successful? Were they ever! The crackdown led to charges being filed against 488 people in Lawrence. 488 in Lawrence alone!! That is crazy!
Here is where it gets good. The average auto insurance premium in Lawrence was $1613 in 2003. Today it is $1260! Collectively across the state there has been a $266 million reduction in claims dollars statewide.
Why This is So Important
When there is a lot of fraud, the innocent people get swept up in the mess. The patients that were hurt in legitimate accidents were being treated as if they were guilty of fraud. The honest doctors and lawyers were getting hammered trying to help people that actually needed it.
As these task forces continue to do their work of reducing fraud, the honest people are going to benefit by getting both the health and legal help that they need.
I got a frantic phone call last month from a patient we will call Mary. Mary had been in an auto accident and was in severe pain. Mary was stopped at a light when she got rear ended from behind. The impact was so hard Mary hit the car in front of her. Luckily Mary was wearing her seatbelt.
When Mary came into the office she reported neck pain, shoulder pain, and right arm pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being severe, Mary rated all three pains a 9. Upon exam Mary presented with tightness in the neck and shoulders as well as diminshed reflexes in her arms.
Mary had been x-rayed at the hospital and luckily had no fractures. She did have an extremely reduced curve in her neck. This lack of curve was putting a lot of tension on the muscles and nerves in her neck and in my opinion was the source of a lot of her pain.
We began treating Mary with gentle adjustments, ice, traction and exercise. The going was real slow for the first week. I wish I could tell you Mary jumped off the table after one visit telling me how awesome I was…didn’t happen.
The second week of care was when we really started to see some results. The muscle tension and spasm started to really clear up and most importantly Mary was really starting to feel better.
It was by week 6 when Mary was really able to get through the day without pain. Needless to say Mary was thrilled. When she reported to the office she was a 9, with 10 being the worst, and now she was in the 1-2 range.
The key to Mary’s recovery was her dedication to getting better. In 8 weeks Mary missed one appointment, did her home exercise and most importantly kept her chin up when the going got tough.
I am proud of Mary and so happy to be able to take a part in helping her.
Woke up this morning to this headline in the Boston Herald….Eight killed in wrecks before dawn
For anyone who knows me, inexplicably, I am a huge NASCAR fan. I watch the race, the minor league races, the talk shows, I even read websites about it. I have often joked that I would pick going to the Daytona 500 over most any other sporting event.
To make this more of a conundrum, I barely know which side of the screwdriver to hold, never mind having any knowledge of cars. It is the science of the sport that absolutely fascinates me and today’s post is about the safety side.
When I went to bed last night, at the conclusion of the NASCAR race from Daytona, Kyle Busch, one of the sports biggest stars, had just got turned into the wall at 180+ MPH. His car then spun, was struck from behind, spun again and was hit even harder on the drivers side door. Again all of this at 180+ MPH. His car was totally destroyed. A few weeks prior to that Carl Edwards, another huge star, got hit, spun, hit again, his car went into the air, flipped, hit a fence before finally landing on the track. Again his car was totally destroyed.
The common theme in these two 180+ MPH wrecks is that both drivers walked away. Carl Edwards even made a big show of jogging across the finish line, not 15 seconds after his car stopped.
How is it possible that these two guys walk away from their wrecks, yet 8 people were killed last night, July 4th, in wrecks where people weren’t going near half their speed?
After I read the headline of the article, I found this later in the piece…”A common thread in the tragic, predawn carnage was that none of the drivers or passengers in the deadliest accidents in Walpole and Attleboro were wearing safety belts while driving at high speeds.
When a NASCAR driver gets behind the wheel, he does so knowing that this race could be his last. The possibility of death stares him right in the face. In order to give these drivers a much better chance to survive these crashes a complex safety system is used. The drivers are basically strapped into their seats. Trust me when I tell you this, there is not much wiggle room. There is a 5 point seat-belt and even their helmets are attached to the seat. A window netting is also included to prevent arms from coming outside of the car.
When a young driver gets behind the wheel, I suspect they are more pre occupied with how they look in the car versus how safe they are. No wonder parents can’t sleep when their kids are out late.
The safety devices available to a driver pale in comparison to what you would find in a typical NASCAR car, however, since the speeds are hopefully only 1/3 of what they will drive, they are more than sufficient if used properly.
There are 4 key points to safety within the car:
Seat-belt. To not wear your seat-belt is shear idiocy. There is absolutely no excuse. Plainly stated the seat-belt will keep you in the car. It will also keep you in your seat and off the steering wheel or windshield. You must use the lap and shoulder belts. This point is not open for debate.
Airbag. If you strike something hard enough the airbag will deploy. While this will make a sound and you will smell something odd, these are very effective at keeping your head off the windshield and steering wheel. Word of caution, short people need to sit as far from the steering wheel as possible, maybe even consider getting pedal extenders. Same for pregnant women, you don’t want the airbag striking you with too much force, it is best to sit as far back as you can.
Seats. The seat is designed to absorb the energy if you crash. In order for it to work properly, you must have the seat as upright as possible and have your head no more than 1 inch from the headrest. The headrest should also be high up enough so your entire head touches it, don’t just leave it on the seat. Riding like the gangsta with the seat all the way back and you leaning forward has to end.
ABS. These are standard on most cars today. These brakes will allow you to continue steering in the case where you need to stop quickly. One note of caution, these brakes only work if you keep the pedal depressed. DO NOT pump these types of brakes. When you have these brakes all the way pressed down, sometimes they will vibrate or pulse, that means they are doing their job, don’t let up. If the car that you are looking at buying does not come with ABS, please consider another model. If you must choose between the moon roof and the ABS, please choose the ABS.
If you know you are going to get in an accident there are a couple of things you can do to try and lessen the imapct of the crash. Begin by forcing your head against the head rest, while looking straight. The second thing you can do is tense for the crash, this goes against the old advice of staying loose. Lastly, if you are in a postion to try and avoid the accident, focus on where you want to go. If you want to stay on the road and avoid the trees, focus on the road and do your best to ignore the trees. You will be shocked at how effective this is.
Hey wait, that sounds like life advice also, focus on where you want to go…………
Your state of mind may be the most important tool in your arsenal of safety. Driving while drinking, under the influence of drugs, tired, angry, or now dialing/talking on the cell and texting is severly limiting your chances of staying out of an accident. Changing the radio station and eating are also distractions that you must be very careful with.
If you do get in an accident please check in with your doctor right away. If the accident is bad enough a trip to the ER is a good idea for a set of x-rays. In most cases you will not need a neck brace, those have been shown to increase scar tissue formation and actually slow down healing.
Lastly, please slow down. Driving 50 on a road designed for 30 is going to get you in trouble.
If you have any questions you can always ask here through the comments or give me a call at the number above.
The 5 Things We Are Doing to Hurt Our Spine, Without Realizing It
Everyday we do little things that set our spine up to hurt. Most times we don’t even realize we are doing it.