So you've been in an accident. Initially it is quite a shock. Do you have pain? Is everyone in the car o.k.? Oftentimes, people will not experience symptoms until days, weeks or even months later. People in accidents occasionally experience arm, shoulder or leg pain but the majority of people will experience back pain. So, why the back?
Your spine consists of 26 vertebrae bones in your spinal column (counting the sacrum and coccyx as two individual fused bones). The neck or cervical spine, mid-back or thoracic spine, low back or lumbar and sacral spine. Seatbelt use is common. It's a simple device that can save lives, it doesn't cause discomfort wearing it and it becomes second nature when we get into the car. Although the seatbelt saves lives, it is also considered a product liability. That means the benefit (saving your life) outweighs the risk( causing musculoskeletal injuries) in a car accident. Since you are attached to the seat by the seatbelt, once you are struck from behind, the side, or the front of the vehicle, your spine will take up much of the force that goes through the car. Even if the damage to the vehicle is minor, cars are made to crush under impact which displaces the force from the bullet vehicle. The occupants of the car will absorb the force, and with a seatbelt restraining device on, will damage tendons, ligaments, muscle and bone tissue.
Muscles are attached to the bone via a tendon which is the tough and elastic part of where the muscle attaches to the bone. This tissue, in young individuals regenerates with elastin ( the flexible part of the tendon composition) and collagen (the tough part of the tendon that get it's strength from). However, when we age, the elastin fibers are not as prevalent and as a result, there are more collagen fibers that get deposited (scar tissue). Cartilaginous tissue damage is permanent. The tissue will never be the same as it once was before the accident. This has immediate and long term effects. Short term, this will cause pain, muscle spasm, inflammation and decreased range of motion after an accident. Long term (greater than 6 months) you will start to see degenerative changes in the vertebrae (arthritis) that is also not reversible.
Since the muscles attach to bones (your spine), during an accident, your muscles tighten up due to the body trying to stabilize and protect the spine. This is a natural result and is normal. When this happens during and accident, the muscle will pull off from the bone and also alter the vertebrae's movement. Lack of movement from spasmed muscles, torn tendons, improper moving vertebrae, inflammation can all cause permanent and long lasting damage to your spine.
The reason why your spine takes up much of the damage from a car accident that occurs with impact, is that your spine is restrained by the seatbelt while the force of the impact pushes your body in the direction away from the impact. For example, if you are at a stoplight and someone rear ends your vehicle, the force from the impact will push your body forward in the seat while being restrained by the belt. This, combined with the natural reaction of your body to tighten up muscles of the spine to protect from injury causes tearing of tendons, ligaments and muscle with resultant inflammation and pain.
Not only that, but your neck is more susceptible to injury. Your head weighs approximately 12 pounds. It is attached to your body by the neck. The head is basically attached to a stalk that has great range of motion-flexion, extension, right and left lateral flexion and right and left rotation. Because the neck is free moving and not specifically restrained by the seatbelt, you will have more movement in this area, and as a result, more damage can happen here. Concomitantly, if someone has an underlying health issue like, arthritis, disc degeneration, disc bulges osteopenia (thinning of the bones) an accident will cause more damage to these structures at less impact.
If you have been in an accident and are experiencing headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, mid-back pain, low back pain, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs and live in the Chicagoland area like: Elmhurst, Berkeley, Villa Park, Lombard, Northlake, Bellwood, Westchester, Oak Brook, Hillside, Melrose Park, Stone Park or Bensenville, contact Auto Accident Pain Relief Center of Illinois 24/7 at 800-862-5914 to schedule an appointment.