What Is Motor Vehicle Injury?
Motor vehicle injury explained by Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas top pain doctors
Motor vehicle injuries refer to injuries that are sustained as the result of a motor vehicle accident. Motor vehicle accidents are extremely common. Approximately 70% of individuals over the age of 18 in the United States will be involved in an accident in their lifetime, according to recent estimates.
Motor vehicle injuries and chronic pain go hand in hand as approximately 50% of patients suffering from chronic pain state that their chronic pain resulted from surgery, injury, or a motor vehicle accident. Around the world, it has been estimated that about 50 million people suffer from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. This means that a staggering number of individuals may potentially suffer with chronic pain.
Chronic pain related to motor vehicle accidents can result in disability. Of the individuals suffering from motor vehicle injuries, 5-7% report that they are at least somewhat disabled. Disability can have a significant negative impact on various aspects of the individuals’ life.
After a motor vehicle collision, individuals frequently report facet joint pain in the neck or intervertebral disc pain in the neck. There are a small number of individuals who report both conditions. In addition, motor vehicle accident victims commonly report ligament tears, bone fractures, internal bleeding, head injuries, abrasions, as well as injuries to the spinal cord.
Individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents not only suffer from physical ailments, but they often suffer from psychological conditions as well. Individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents are at risk of suffering from acute stress and may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. These two psychological disorders can actually worsen physical pain symptoms; therefore, they need to be addressed and properly managed by trained medical professionals.
Causes Of Motor Vehicle Injury
Whiplash is the most frequently reported type of injury sustained by individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents. Whiplash occurs due to the sudden acceleration-deceleration forces experienced in a collision. Whiplash commonly causes cervical facet joint pain, which can result in chronic neck pain. Whiplash can also lead to prolonged stretches of partial disability for some patients and the associated neck pain can persist for years following the collision.
Recent studies, using high-speed cameras, have been conducted in an effort to investigate the effect of rear impact crashes on the cervical spine. The results suggest that the forces placed on an individuals’ cervical spine following a rear impact crash cause the lower neck vertebrae to hyperextend and the upper neck vertebrae to hyperflex. This creates an atypical curve in the neck, which may lead to irritation and damage of the facet joints and the surrounding muscles.
Intervertebral disc pain is another condition that is commonly reported following a motor vehicle accident. The roles of the intervertebral discs are shock absorption and spine flexibility. Inflammation, compression, and damage of these discs, after a collision, can result in chronic neck pain.
Treatments For Motor Vehicle Injury
A variety of treatments exist to treat injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. Home treatments, including rest, ice, over-the-counter medications, and gentle stretching are recommended for pain that is mild. For patients with pain that is more severe, more aggressive treatment options may be needed.
Studies have shown that motor vehicle accident victims that initiate treatment with a physical therapist shortly after a collision are more likely to sustain positive treatment results. These results include decreased pain, increased range of motion, and improved functioning. Physical therapy will include an initial assessment followed by treatment that may consist of manual therapy in combination with a prescribed set of stretching and exercises for the injured area.
Most accident victims who experience chronic pain will be prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication in addition to home treatments or physical therapy to help control pain and inflammation. In addition, corticosteroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, may also be prescribed to help control the inflammation associated with chronic pain.
If conservative treatment methods do not provide relief, more invasive treatment methods may be recommended. These more aggressive options include radiofrequency ablation, facet joint injections, and medial branch blocks. Radiofrequency ablation uses a high frequency current to disturb the affected nerve, interfering with its ability to transmit pain signals. Medial branch blocks and facet joint injections involve injections into the affected area to block pain signal transmission to the spinal cord and brain.
Biofeedback training may be useful to deal with the psychological impacts of a motor vehicle injury. Biofeedback training involves teaching coping and management strategies to help patients effectively manage their pain levels. This helps patients gain some control over their chronic pain. Another alternative treatment to traditional medical management of motor vehicle injuries is acupuncture. Acupuncture is believed to provide effective pain control for individuals experiencing pain following a collision.
Individuals commonly report symptoms of chronic pain following a motor vehicle accident. This pain can last for several years after the collision. Whiplash and disc pain are the two most common types of injuries reported after motor vehicle accidents, however, other injuries can also occur.
Various treatments exist for the management of chronic pain due to motor vehicle injury, ranging from conservative home treatments and physical therapy to more invasive options including radiofrequency ablation, medial branch blocks, and facet joint injections. Speaking with a qualified medical practitioner will help patients to develop an appropriate treatment pain for their chronic pain condition.
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