Car Crashes, Whiplash, and Your Body
February 9, 2018
Car crashes are an unfortunate fact of life, and the 9th leading cause of death across the globe. Every year, road accidents account for nearly 1.3 million deaths, or 3,287 every day. Beyond that, another 20 to 50 million people are injured in car crashes, and they can cost governments over 518 billion dollars every year. Car crashes are a problem that might be preventable, but are unlikely to go away. Do you know what, exactly, happens during a car crash, though? You surely were brushed up on the topic in your driver’s ed course, but even that explanation can be a little vague. Let’s discuss what happens to your body when you get into a car accident.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is the most common side effect of a car crash. With or without your seatbelt, it’s impossible to avoid. When two steel vehicles ram into each other at high speeds, the people inside will be thrown about. This sudden impact, combined with the tensing of muscles, gets spread throughout the body. Unfortunately, our bodies just aren’t equipped to handle this kind of impact. The aching pain that follows is whiplash.
Whiplash can also be referred to as a neck sprain, as that is where the injury resides. In all cases of whiplash, the injured person will feel a stiffness in the neck, possibly rendering it immobile. Pain in the shoulder or lower back is another common symptom, caused by the inability of the impact to move along the spine. Headaches may occur, as well, and will often be followed by dizziness, attention issues, and irritability. In the most extreme cases of whiplash, the sufferer may begin to feel numbness in their arms and hands, and have difficulty sleeping. A sudden feeling of fatigue is another surefire sign of whiplash.
Whiplash ranges wildly in severity. If you are ever in a car crash and feel a slight stiffness in your neck, you don’t need to rush to get medical attention. If you have feelings of immediate fatigue, an ambulance should escort you to the nearest medical facility. Whiplash doesn’t have any long term effects. The pain will last a period of 1 to 3 months, and then fade. There has been some reported cases of long term complications caused by whiplash, though. Many of them are psychological. A sort of placebo effect occurs in patients who went through a traumatic car crash, and they can remember the pain so vividly that they feel it again. In other cases, patients were misdiagnosed when x-rayed. Whiplash is differentiated from similar issues by lack of damage to the spine. When the spine is okay but soft tissue in the neck has been injured, that’s whiplash. Doctors may occasionally miss spinal injury, or a patient may not report their symptoms correctly, which can leave the spinal injury untreated. In this case, the effects of whiplash can linger.
Other Common Car Crash Injuries
Beyond whiplash, one of the few certainties of a car crash is injuries to the skin. Scrapes, cuts, and bruises can occur after a car crash for a myriad of reasons. Often, skin contusions occur when something inside of the car suddenly becomes a projectile. Your beloved coffee cup is suddenly a missile when you get into a car crash, and the change you have laying around will fly everywhere. You will know if a scrape or bruise needs to get checked out, but it’s best to play it safe. Cuts and bruises could be a sign of something worse, and it’s best to catch it early.
Concussion can be a symptom of whiplash, or be entirely unrelated after a car crash. Concussions occur when the spinal fluid surrounding your brain suddenly allows it to cut through, and smash into your skull. The force from a car crash is more than enough to let this happen. When it does, it will leave your brain with severe tissue damage, that can lead to many similar symptoms to whiplash. Headaches, dizziness, sudden fatigue, imbalance, and confusion are all common. If you feel any of these symptoms, even if you haven’t hit your head, it’s best to see a doctor immediately. Not only do concussions lead to many short term issues, but they can cause severe complications later in life.
Chest contusions may also occur. When your chest collides with the steering wheel, it will leave bruises. Well these are often plain to see, this may lead to broken or bruised ribs, or internal hemorrhaging. If you feel chest pain after a car accident or know that your chest hit the steering wheel, you should seek medical attention immediately, even if it looks okay.