Your Back During a Car Accident

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Member Insights by Ability Chiropractic

You tried your hardest to avoid it, but it’s happened—you’ve been in a car accident. Even a very minor fender bender can leave you with a serious injury to your spine. Here’s why…

We all (hopefully) remember Newton’s first law from our high school physics class: an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. We like to call this inertia, and it’s a very powerful force indeed.

As you are driving down the road, your body is moving forward. If you then hit something, the car is forced to stop suddenly while your body continues moving forward. To combat inertia, we have safety features such as seatbelts, which keep our bodies from succumbing to Newton’s first law and continue in motion straight through the windshield. If your car is already at rest and is suddenly hit and put into motion, the same opposing forces of inertia vs seatbelt apply.

Changes in acceleration or deceleration due to a car accident causes whiplash injuries, the sudden jerking of the spine in multiple directions. Whiplash injuries in the neck can often affect the mid back, lower back, and shoulders as well. Other common injuries sustained during car accidents include vertebral fractures, disc herniations, facet joint injuries, and lumbar sprains— which, over time, can lead to arthritis or spinal stenosis. It’s almost impossible NOT to injure your spine in a car accident. Also, damage to surrounding tissue and muscle will always affect spinal alignment and may cause pain.

While the chance of injury is significantly higher when high speeds are involved, even a slow-moving crash or a light rear-ending can create enough impact to cause injury. In fact, whiplash injuries or a fractured vertebra can occur at speeds as low as 3 mph. Our bodies simply aren’t designed for the sudden change in inertial shearing force.

If you are in ANY sort of car accident, even if there is no harm done to the vehicle, you could still have spinal damage. It’s important to keep a close watch on your body to determine the extent of the injury. If you feel pain, take it slow, listen to your body, and see a chiropractor right away for an evaluation and treatment. (Be sure to let them know about your car accident.) Not only will your chiropractor help your symptoms, but many chiropractors can also help you file claims for insurance reimbursement from the person who caused the accident.

If you have been in a car accident, don’t delay. Find a trusted chiropractor to treat your back or neck injury today.