Automobile accidents are unavoidable in today’s society and while you can decrease your chances of being in an accident through defensive driving and other preventative measures, statistics show that every driver will be in some type of accident once every 7 years. So what should you do when an accident occurs? First, it is imperative that you follow some basic guidelines to insure you get all the necessary information and document the accident properly. This is often much harder than expected because the adrenaline response kicks in as part of our “flight or fight” response. Immediately after an accident, adrenaline usually skyrockets and impairs important brain functions such as reasoning and decision making.
After you attend to the details of the accident and any immediate medical concerns, your body may begin to experience a variety of symptoms that were not immediately apparent because of the initial adrenaline rush. There is a huge range of possible injury from none to death, but contusions, abrasions and particularly soft tissue injuries are by far the most common. Even if you were evaluated in the emergency room and told “nothing is wrong”, emergency evaluations focus on fractures, dislocations, internal organ injury and other life-threatening conditions, not the typical soft tissue injuries that often feel worse over the next few days or weeks. A progression of symptoms occur in part because of the swelling and inflammation that develop in the injured “soft tissues” over a period of hours, or even days, following the accident.
So what causes this swelling and inflammation associated with “soft tissue injury”? Soft tissue injury happens when muscle, ligaments, discs, tendons, joint capsules and other “soft tissues” are stretched beyond their normal position and limit. Without an prior awareness of the collision, the accident happens so quickly that your nervous system usually cannot respond fast enough to prevent your head, neck and body from moving beyond normal positions; this causes what doctors call “sprain” or “strain” injury, depending upon the type of tissue involved. The severity of injury is proportional to the “acceleration differential” that develops between your body and the vehicle when the accident occurs. That’s why higher speed accidents typically result in more severe injury but other factors such as road conditions, head position, seat belts, air bag inflation or even the amount of property damage can alter the ‘acceleration differential’ of the occupant. The most important component of preventing or minimizing injury is an ‘awareness’ of the collision before impact, but even seemingly minor accidents with little or no property damage can result in injury under the right circumstances. This is explained by the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Physics.
In summary, automobile accidents are essentially unavoidable in today’s society. Make sure the accident is documented properly and you exchange the appropriate information of all parties involved. Immediate symptoms may not be present so it is always appropriate to have at least a screening examination after any accident. Such as examination should be performed by a chiropractic doctor or someone similarly qualified to evaluate range of motion, joint function and potential impact on future spinal health because symptoms are not always immediately present. LifeSource Health Partners provides such a screening examination at no charge as a community service to increase awareness and understanding of what happens in a car accident and how it relates to future health and quality of life.