Don’t Ignore the Result of Even a Small Fender Bender
Hello everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you top quality advice from many of the leading expert professionals across the U.S. In today’s episode we are speaking with chiropractor, Dr. Dennis James, a performance chiropractic clinic located in Keller, Texas. Dr. James is a nationally recognized chiropractor and a member of both the American and Texas Chiropractic Association. He is also a certified acupuncturist and Fellow of the Acupuncture Society of America. Dr. James specializes in family chiropractic care, treating infants to seniors.
Today we’re going to talk about a very important topic:
Don’t Ignore the Result of Even a Small Fender Bender.
RC: Hi, Dr. James. How are you today?
Dr. Dennis James: I’m doing great, Liz. Thank you.
RC: Well, thanks for joining me.
What are the most common injuries sustained in small fender benders or auto accidents?
Dr. Dennis James: Well, Liz, there’s a vast array of injuries that can happen but the most common thing and what I love about the question is that you recognize the fact that injuries are sustained within fender benders. One of the most common misconceptions in our society is the fact that people believe that the amount of injury that is done to the person is going to be correlated and directly equivalent to the amount of damage that is done to the car, and it’s just not further from the truth.
What the latest research studies are actually showing us is that whiplash is the number one injury that is occurring and it’s most commonly occurring at 9.3 miles per hour or less. Even the studies that come out of the Spine Research Institute out in San Diego are saying that 60% of all auto accident injuries are actually occurring between only 6 and 12 miles per hour. When we take a look at that, we see that fender benders are actually a very important thing to understand and to get treated properly, and a lot of the different factors in injuries that come through are related to that flexion extension type of injury.
Whiplash is extremely common. Neck pain is extremely common. We end up with back pain, shoulder pain, headaches, dizziness, fatigue. A lot of different factors can come through there.
Why should someone involved in a motor vehicle accident see a doctor even if they don’t feel any immediate pain or discomfort?
Dr. Dennis James: Well, that’s because they don’t want to have any residual effects down the road. They want a quality of life down the road and they don’t want to live with any chronic pain down the road. When we take a look at that question, we really end up with two different types of people.
One type of person gets in the auto accident and they’re a little bit sore. They feel stiff. They don’t think there’s much to it. They compare it to working out and they hold out. They want to wait and see if it goes away but the difference is that you weren’t doing something that was creating health for the body to build back. There was actually a trauma here that can create an injury.
What tends to happen is people wait too long and now an inflammatory process has kicked in, the swelling has kicked in. And the longer you wait, not only is there a problem but then at that point, it’s going to take a lot longer in order to get it better. If we wait too long, we can have the law of matter start to kick in as well. It’s much more important to actually go in and get checked out just to make sure that there is not an issue going on there but to also make sure that you can get it treated as soon as possible if there is.
However on the other side of it, there is a few cases where you don’t feel any pain at all and there is an injury. Liz, what that tends to be is a physiological response. What that is is an adrenaline response from a stress-like event, like auto accidents are. When that adrenaline kicks in, what tends to happen is you have an increase in energy, it can block your pain and now for a day or two, you don’t get pain, sometimes up to a week or two. People tend to wait too long and that can really cause some problems down the road as well.
What are some symptoms that might not appear until a few days following an accident?
Dr. Dennis James: Well, there are many of those but let’s bring it down to probably the top three that I tend to see in my office. Number one would be headaches. Now, you can see headaches immediately after an auto accident but it’s also very common because of the trauma that’s done to the neck, the cervical spine through there, that depending on what levels are injured, you can get different types of headaches that occur and until that inflammatory process and swelling process continues to go forward do you actually see the full residual effects of that. We want to get that fixed as soon as possible because everybody knows how debilitating those can be, how they affect your quality of life, just focusing on a day to day basis.
Number two, and very common, are disc injuries, the radiating pain. A lot of time you don’t see that come up until a little bit later, and that’s something that people just think, “Oh, I was a little bit sore,” but those discs become such a big factor. When that radiating pain starts to hit, we start to deal with muscle strength and other type of issues down the road, and those are crucial that the longer you wait, the worse that can get, and it can get to the point that it’s beyond a chiropractic case. We definitely want to get it before that’s the case.
Lastly, Liz, I’d like to think back to that adrenaline response, and this is the area that’s probably the most important. If the body never drops out of that fight or flight or sympathetic state, so to speak, then it can stay there for a period of time and it’s like just pressing on the gas pedal of a car, where a patient, their body never is able to slow down. Even when they go to sleep at night it doesn’t drop into an REM sleep, so tissues never rebuild. Your energy never comes back. Now we start to deal with chronic fatigue issues, sleep issues, emotional issues, and those are tough to recover from a trauma like that.
How does a chiropractor treat patients involved in minor auto accidents?
Dr. Dennis James: Well, that’s going to depend on the patient itself because every single injury is going to be a little bit different. The most important thing that we can do is make sure the patient goes to a chiropractor that is going to do a thorough exam. We need to determine, is this a bone issue? Is it a structure issue, such as the joint itself? The muscles, the ligaments, or even a nerve involvement? Once we do that, now we’re able to determine, “Hey, the chiropractic adjustment is definitely the way to go. We need to put in some muscle stim or other therapies, acupuncture can be added to it. Do we need to use ice,” and things of that nature.
I would say when we’re dealing with auto accidents, the most important thing that we’re going to see is the chiropractic adjustment. That’s because not only do we have muscle involvement typically in this type of injury but you have the restriction of that spine, and that causes some real big issues down the road if that’s not taken care of. The chiropractor is going to go in and address that, get the motion coming back, which is going to start to turn that around and create the healing process as soon as possible.
What are the long term health risks of not getting treatment right after a fender bender?
Dr. Dennis James: Well, this, too, Liz, is going to be directly related to what style of injury it was, what type of injury it was, and other complicating factors that the patient may have. To take a global aspect of that, if we do have nerve involvement, and one of the common things that we see down the road is going to be muscle weakness, so it’s important to get that nerve flow restored as quick as possible so we don’t have any decreased strength, so to speak, as the person moves forward.
Number two, and we were talking about the importance of that adjustment, is that, like when you work out, Liz, you get callous formations on your hands. That’s from the stress of working out. Well, the same thing happens in the neck. If those intervertebral joints are not moving properly, which has decreased your range of motion a little bit in the neck, what happens is those become stressed as they move. There is a bony buildup on there that people call spinal degeneration or arthritis down the road. Now that causes chronic stiffness, chronic neck pain. Also makes you more susceptible to headaches and also disc injuries down the road.
Then lastly, I think we need to still take a look at that adrenaline response. The long term effects is going to be adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, unless we can balance out that nervous system, start to create health, and get the person going where they can have a quality of life down the road.
RC: Well, thank you so much, Dr. James. We know you’re extremely busy, so I just want to thank you for your time and help today.
Dr. Dennis James: Well, thank you, Liz. We appreciate it.
On behalf of our team, we want to thank you for listening and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading experts.