Car crashes are unfortunately becoming more and more common due to distracted drivers.  Residential areas are becoming increasingly populated and more drivers on the road typically mean a greater chance of being involved in a car accident.  Drivers are showing signs of fatigue due to burnout from jobs and work-life balance making them more susceptible to a car accident. Whether or not you live in St. George, Utah or Santa Clara, Hurricane, LaVerkin, Washington Fields, or anywhere else in the US, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reports a 10.5% jump in 2021 from 2020. 

In a study conducted by Hildingsson et al, it is estimated that between 10% and 40% of persons sustaining neck trauma as a result of a motor vehicle crash and inadvertently will go on to have chronic persistent problems.  Whiplash is a common car crash injury and it has been reported that 70% of those with persistent symptoms after trauma suffer from dizziness and visual complaints such as blurred vision. 

Most collisions are sudden and absolutely unexpected. When a person is struck unexpectedly by another vehicle in a car accident, their neck muscles are in a more relaxed state. This results in a much higher whiplash incident than someone who is expecting the impact and has time to prepare by bracing themselves. According to Nichelli, et al, this is likely the cause of extreme degrees of neck movement and consequent overstretch and compression of the vertebral artery. This and other delicate blood vessels can be stretched which can complicate the injury.  This condition can cause dizziness, unsteadiness, altered posture stability, cervical proprioception loss, and other neurological symptoms.  Some patients may complain of a feeling more like “spinning” in their head rather than spinning off their surroundings.  The cervical spine is an extremely vulnerable structure, especially when is it exposed to trauma.  Treatment should be considered as soon as possible with an auto accident injury expert, like the ones at Dixie Chiropractic, to ensure the best possible outcome.

On occasion, a car crash can unveil hidden issues that are brought on by the trauma. I always tell patients, if they had any pre-existing conditions before their accident occurred, the car accident will be the favorite. Some people will come into my office with concerns about insurance companies covering their injuries when they already were suffering from neck pain prior to a car crash. I simply let these people know that it’s not their fault that they had a pre-existing condition and that we simply need to establish what their baseline is because the ‘at-fault’ driver’s insurance company is responsible to get them back to what is considered “pre-accident” status. I encourage so many people to simply state how bad their complaints were prior to the accident and then rate their post-accident complaints in comparison. It’s the job of the car accident injury expert to then help them return to how they felt prior to the accident. For instance, someone may have had neck pain prior to an accident that they graded as a 2 on the 0 – 10 pain scale. Then, after the accident, their pain may shoot up to 8. This is a very simple example, but basically, it would stand to reason that everything above the pain scale of a 2 would be the responsibility of the “at-fault” driver’s insurance company. We would then begin treatments of various therapies such as, mechanical traction, electrical muscle stimulation, laser therapy, chiropractic manipulation, massage therapy, trigger point injections, and or anything else that may be necessary to return them to their previous condition, or in other words, bring their pain scale back down to a 2.

Seeking care and treatment by a qualified medical professional such as me, Dr. Ward Wagner, is how to ensure the best results. Early intervention is key in being sure to receive an accurate diagnosis of each and every complaint. Such diagnoses typically require expertise in physical examination, x-ray findings, or other radiographic imaging such as MRI, CT scans, or diagnostic ultrasound. One of my frustrations is practitioners who ignore the full gamut of diagnostic tools available following a serious car crash. Some doctors will practice the “watch and wait” method. I am not a fan of this as many times serious injury will lead to serious complications especially in the case, as mentioned previously, someone who suffers from dizziness following an accident. Dizziness, in the case of a car accident injury, is likely to be related to whiplash or cervical acceleration/deceleration injury, traumatic brain injury, or possibly to sedatives or antidepressants that are prescribed frequently for increased anxiety or PTSD following a car accident. Injuries to “higher centers” (a nickname for the brain, or more specifically, areas of the brain) are many times some of the worst injuries to have such as a case where someone is left with decreased cognitive function, retarded mental capacity, loss of memory or ability to learn and retain new information. These are significant and severe life-altering complications that affect not only the person injured in the accident but their loved ones as well.

Physical impairments following a car accident may also be life-threatening as in the case of paralysis, loss of limbs, or other significant limitation leading to various disabilities. One of the hardest things for me to hear from patients later in their lives is their stories about previous injuries that they thought would resolve on their own but never did. I’ve met many people who have serious degenerative joint disease, various arthritic conditions, loss of range of motion, or other functional impairment, all of which are very painful, and that most likely could have been cured had they sought treatment immediately after their auto accident.

At Dixie Chiropractic, we pride ourselves on bringing full resolution to people’s injuries. Our staff is trained to assess and develop a customized treatment plan to get you back to feeling like your “old” self again by using the latest technology and treatments. We strive to give personalized attention to not only each individual that comes to our office but detailed attention to their injuries. Some people erroneously seek care from nonmedical personnel such as massage therapists, energy workers, or other tradespeople without ever seeking help from a primary care physician. As a therapeutic intervention, I have no problem utilizing these other crafts as part of the recovery team. However, it is my professional opinion that utilizing non-experts is risky for your health both now and into the future. While there are many people out there who are very good at what they do, this doesn’t mean they had the experience or education to recognize many of the before–mentioned diagnoses and syndromes. Again, I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to seek care from a primary care physician such as a chiropractor or other doctor.

In the majority of cases, patients will recover from whiplash within 3 months.  In some cases, patients may develop other conditions such as depression, or have trouble sleeping.  Some patients can experience chronic neck pain as long as 2 years after the car crash.  Early treatment is paramount and can promote a decrease in inflammation, scarring, and lingering long-term symptoms. 

Often times symptoms will not show up for weeks or months and the correlation between symptoms and the car crash isn’t recognized.  They can be brushed off as old age or “maybe I slept on my neck wrong.”   Seeking treatment can help put your mind at ease and ensure that you are on track for the safest and most effective recovery plan. I had a patient this week who came in from treatment following a car accident injury. The interesting thing about her case is that she was a gymnast in her youth and is used to hard physical work, exercise, and injuries. Some of which she has continued to suffer from for the last 15 years since she was an elite athlete. So getting into a car crash and having an increase of pain following that accident was not initially concerning to her. However, when we began our physical examination and discovered a meniscus tear in her “good” knee, loss of range of motion in her neck which, prior to the accident, was sore on occasion, and lower back pain that is also flared up and causes excruciating pain on certain movements that I had her perform, also known as orthopedic tests, she was surprised to discover that there was a huge difference between how she felt prior to the accident and how she feels now. Because she works in a fairly sedentary environment, is not currently exercising, and has a lifestyle that is low physical stress, her daily activities were not a good measure of how she is actually feeling. She was so thankful that we found several deeper injuries that were sure to make her, already uncomfortable body, worse.

To recap today’s discussion I want to give a simple priority list of how I go through an assessment of the seriousness of injury each and every car accident case that I see.

  1. Obtain an accurate history of health to establish a baseline.
  2. Get the facts of the car accident. (Speed, body position at the moment of impact, directional forces involved.)
  3. Perform a thorough physical examination including range of motion, orthopedic maneuvers, neurologic findings, and cognitive function.
  4. Take x-rays or other imaging as needed.
  5. Plan a detailed treatment regime specific to addressing the type and severity of the injuries in question.

Dr. Ward Wagner has over 20 years of experience treating those who have been in a car crash.  His training goes beyond others as he is a Car Accident Injury Specialist.  Call our office today at 435-673-1443 at Dixie Chiropractic.