by Nicole Berardoni M.D, Tory McJunkin M.D, and Paul Lynch M.D
Motor vehicle injury (MVI) is a huge concern throughout the United States’ healthcare system. People are brought into the emergency room everyday with injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. In the United States, motor vehicle injury among children burden healthcare resources with an estimated $2 billion annually. Globally, approximately 1.2 million people are killed in motor vehicle accidents each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Unless there is further intervention to prevent these road injuries, studies indicate that these injuries will increase 65% over the next 20 years (WHO 2007).
Of all the injuries associated with motor vehicle accidents, chronic whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) represents the most common medical and psycho-social problem. Typically, whiplash presents with mild neck stiffness and soreness. Patients can also have an associated post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2005, physicians studied if the acute stress reaction following a whiplash injury predicted long-term consequences.
Their results demonstrate that both physical and psychological factors play a role in recovery or non-recovery from whiplash injury. This may assist in the development of more relevant treatment methods for acute whiplash (Sterling 2005).
When traveling at a high speed, your body suddenly stops during a car collision. This produces a significant amount of stress on one’s body. Most often, neck muscle and soft tissue straining occurs. In other cases, other injuries may occur including bone fractures, ligament tears, head injuries, internal bleeding, abrasions, and spinal cord injury.
Treatments for Motor Vehicle Injuries
Following a motor vehicle collision, 15% to 40% of patients who have acute neck pain will eventually develop chronic neck pain (Schofferman 2007). Therefore, it is important to treat the symptoms of whiplash to decrease the chance of developing chronic sequelae. There are many treatments that may be effective for whiplash. NSAIDs (Advil-type medications) reduce the inflammation that forms acutely. Chiropractic manipulations and acupuncture may also help relieve the discomfort.
When the neck pain persists, medial branch blocks of the facet joint can be done to determine whether the facet joints are the cause of pain. When significant relief occurs on two occasions, radiofrequency ablation typically provides significant relief for an estimated eight to 12 months and can be repeated as needed (Scofferman 2007). Botox (botulinum toxin A) injections have recently been studied and show effectiveness in reducing pain and increasing range of motion in patients suffering from whiplash (Juan 2004). After a motor vehicle accident, you should go to a hospital to rule out more serious complications that may ensue following a collision. Once the serious complications are ruled out, if you’re still experiencing pain contact us for a pain consultation.