Dr Neil Gardner, Contributor
Have you ever been sitting in traffic and someone who was not paying attention, rams into the back of your car? You may have had some minor aches or stiffness afterwards, but because there was no damage to your car, you casually dismissed it as not serious. You probably did not get the information of the offending driver and perhaps failed to report it to the police. But, did you know that the time it takes for the first signs of injury to appear, in the human body, is often five to 10 years after the motor vehicle accident, especially if it were a low-speed 'fender bender' type accident?
Damage to the car is not a reliable measure to determine if you need to see a spinal-care expert like a chiropractor as spinal injury is possible even without any damage to the motor vehicle. Studies have shown that cars can often withstand crashes of 16 kilometres per hour or more without sustaining damage, whereas other studies involving humans have demonstrated that a motor vehicle accident of as little as eight kilometres per hour can induce neck injury.
The sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head and/or torso is the main cause of injury. This type of motion causes alterations in the firing patterns and tone of the muscles of the spine. Over time, this may lead to degeneration of the spine and discs making them susceptible to injury later on. How often have we heard of someone bending over to tie their shoelaces, or pick up a baby and then sudden back pain or disability grips them - a 'slip disc'? Is it possible that their slip disc is as a result of an accident 10 or more years earlier?
Pain medication, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories - common practice in the treatment of spinal pain, may offer immediate relief, but provides a poor long-term solution in restoring proper spinal function and reducing later degeneration and disability.
Common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, neck swelling, tenderness along the back of the neck, reduced movement in the neck or loss of movement and headaches. Other symptoms of whiplash may include pain, numbness, paraesthesia (pins and needles) in the arms and hands, lower back pain, muscle spasms, dizziness, tiredness, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), blurred vision, ringing in the ears.
If you or a family member have been in a collision, especially if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be wise to include a spine-care specialist as a part of your health-care team.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB; Diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Chiropractic Neurologist, Gardner Chiropractic and Neurology Ltd. Website: www.gcnjamaica.com; phone: 876-978-1050-1, 876-622-9241 or 214-432-5464 (from the USA).