Motor Vehicle Accidents
Motor Vehicle accidents, or MVA’s for short, are a very common injury in our society. However, when they occur, most people are unsure where to go to get medical attention. The other problem is a lot of people do not have pain or other symptoms immediately after the accident. The most important thing to be aware of the following an MVA, is that symptoms/pain can arise and/ or worsen at any time following the MVA.
The direction of the impact plays a big role in what symptoms one will have, and where the symptoms will occur. Excluding serious injuries such as broken bones, head injuries, or internal injuries, let’s talk about the more common injuries that usually occur with MVA’s:
- SPRAINS: Sprains refer to Ligament and Connective Tissue. Connective tissue does just what it says in the name: it connects things together, most of the time, joints. Think about it, if we didn’t have something holding the 2 ends of our bones together at the joint, they wouldn’t move correctly upon each other. Also, a ligament connects a none to a bone, helping stabilize a joint. So, to reiterate, a sprain occurs when the Connective tissue or the ligaments tear in response to an injury such as a car accident.
- STRAINS: Strains occur when muscles and or tendons become torn. A Tendon connects a muscle to a bone, so that when a muscle contracts, it moves the bone.
- HEADACHES: The average head weighs about as much as a 12-pound bowling ball. It is balanced on the spine which for simplistic reasons, is a stack of 26 blocks. So, when there is impact like what occurs in a MVA, it pushes the body immediately in one direction. Because the head is balanced on the spine, it tends to lag behind initially, and when it gets to the end of the Ligaments and Tendons, it takes off in the same direction as the body. Once the body stops moving, the head comes screaming by and again, continues until it runs into the ends of the Ligaments and Tendons on the other side of the body. It then stops going in that direction and switches back the other direction. This phenomenon is called a “whiplash” and causes headaches, neck pain, and back pain. It is created by the elastic recoil of the head, neck and soft tissues (ligaments, connective tissue, muscles, and tendons).
- NERVE ROOT COMPRESSION: Impingement or compression of the nerve root is one of the most common complications of Whiplash. Nerve root pain radiates away from the neck so that you feel the pain wherever the nerve travels or is positioned in the body. This is called “radicular pain” or “Radiculitis”. The nerve root is injured in the accident is either pinched by bone, bruised, or stretched.
So, that ends our discussion of what we call the “pathology of MVA’s”, hopefully describing all of the mechanism that occur with an accident.
Kale Isaacson, PT