After treating motor vehicle collision (MVC) clients for 25 years, I am always amazed at all the different injuries that can occur.
Types of injuries that can occur with a motor vehicle collision:
- Neck strain and sprain
- Middle back strain and sprain
- Lower back strain and sprain
- Shoulder contusion on side door
- Knee contusion on dash
- Head injury concussion on the headrest or the windshield
- Hand, wrist and thumb sprained on steering wheel
- Chest injury contusion on steering wheel.
The majority are neck and spine related because we have this 12 pound head that sits on top of our neck. When we are in a high speed impact, the head is whipped forwards and backwards, resulting in a “whiplash” sprain of the joints and muscles. Our muscles cannot react fast enough to stop the joints from going beyond their normal anatomical position. This is why your neck will feel hot the first day, then stiff the next day as the swelling in the tissue starts to accumulate. Icing for the first few days after the accident can limit the inflammatory reaction and give you some much needed pain relief. In the second week, the heat will feel good to relax the stiff and tense muscles that are guarding your joints that are not positioned correctly. The small facet joints will often get fixated or stuck in an abnormal position. This is where a Manual and Manipulative Physiotherapist (FCAMPT) can start to gently assess and treat the affected areas. It is important to go easy on the treatment of the neck for the first six weeks. We have to let the healing take place and encourage gentle normal movement, being careful not to go too aggressively.
If you regularly wear a seat belt, some of the above listed injuries can be prevented. The worst injuries are usually those sustained at high speed on a busy highway, like Deerfoot Trail in Calgary. If you are prepared for a collision you will usually sustain less injuries, but if you are surprised by the collision you could experience increased damage to your soft tissue. So, if you are looking straight ahead during the collision you will have less damage than someone who is looking one way at impact. A good tip would be if you are sensing you are going to collide, brace yourself and tuck your chin in. Push your head back into the headrest to recruit your neck muscles to help reduce the amount your head moves during the collision. If you can reduce the amplitude or amount of movement, it may reduce the amount of soft tissue damage to the ligaments of your neck. You may get more muscle damage, but muscles always heal better and faster as they have better circulation of blood to them than ligaments. Muscles contract and stretch allowing more circulation, whereas ligaments are static and hold bones, which do not move, unless under load.
So make sure that all of your family members buckle up to reduce severe injury. If you get into a MVC, give us a call at Thorncliffe at 403.275.7728 or Beddington at 403.295.8590 to book your MVC Physiotherapy assessment within 10 days of your collision. Remember to ice your neck for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 – 6 times a day, for the first few days to calm down the swelling and bleeding in your muscle tissues. Drive safe and take care.
Submitted by: Blair Schachterle on behalf of the Nose Creek Sport Physiotherapy team.