04 Mar Whiplash and Delayed Onset of Pain
It is a very common misconception that whiplash or injuries from car accidents cause immediate pain or pain that develops within the first 24 hours of an accident. While this is common with many individuals involved in car accidents, it is extremely common for people’s symptoms to be delayed. Symptoms can sometimes take days to weeks to show up.
Why is it that symptoms are slow to show up in many cases?
The reason that they show up more slowly in some cases is because of the injury that occurs. When someone is in a car accident and gets ‘whiplash’ and pain shows up immediately it is usually because the major muscles, ligaments and tendons get strained or torn. When this happens inflammation in those tissues starts to set in almost immediately which then produces stiffness and pain.
However if the injury that occurs injures the small facets joints in your neck and spine then many times the pain will be delayed. This is due to the fact that those joints are very small and do not have pain sensing nerve endings in the joints.
Let’s talk about the mechanics of the injury to the joints in your spine.
When you are in a car accident there are tremendous forces to the spine. Even in a low speed collision you can experience up to 3-10g forces. That is 3-10x the force of gravity that occurs in a fraction of a second. Those forces are so large and happen so quickly that you cannot tighten up muscles to even brace for the impact. Due to these factors the joints in your spine get injured very easily in a car accident.
When the facet joints get injured and there is not an injury to the muscles or other soft tissues of the spine you will not typically have pain immediately. What happens though is that due to the injury to the facet joint you will begin to have improper biomechanics at those injured joint levels. The longer you have improper motion or alignment then inflammation and muscular imbalances will start to develop. This process can take days to even weeks to show up. That is why it is common for people to not have any pain for days to weeks following a car accident.
So how do you know if the facets are injured before the pain develops?
This is probably the most important thing to understand…a skilled and experienced chiropractic physician can diagnose injuries to the facet joints very early after a car accident and before pain can set in. There are some specific tests and even x-rays that can help to determine if there is injury at the facet joint level.
Ultimately if you or someone you know has been in a car accident, regardless of how bad the accident was or not, you need to be evaluated promptly. The sooner you can get evaluated and start treatment the less treatment you typically need and the faster you will get back to doing what you love to do. Call our office today if you or someone you know has recently been in a car accident. We will do a free evaluation and free 60m massage. If you need any ongoing treatment it is covered under car insurance and you pay nothing out of pocket. Call to schedule now 801-492-9300