COVID-19 has had profound effects on the way that all of us live our lives, and while we hope that things are now starting to return to something a little more like normal, there’s one fact which troubles me as a healthcare professional. Specifically, since lockdown, fewer of us than ever before are visiting the doctor for “non-urgent” issues. This is a thread I’ll be returning to over the next few weeks, but today I want to look at one specific area where this can be an issue – car accidents.
Car accidents, the hidden risk
Many of us have, unfortunately, been involved in a car accident of some type during our lifetimes. For some of us, this will sadly mean a serious accident requiring hospitalisation – but for the vast majority, it will be a bump from the front or behind – which, while costly, does not seem too serious.
It’s common for those who are injured in an accident (not seriously, that is) to fail to even notice their issue, sometimes until days after the incident. Longer-term issues can often be masked by the adrenaline and other stress hormones which start running through your body when an incident occurs – but some also take time to begin to really bite.
Perhaps that’s true for a fender bender, but what’s the harm in a small collision? – say you backed into a bollard (don’t worry, we’ve all been there). Actually, research shows that car crashes that occur at as little as 5mph can result in significant tissue damage – the damage to the car can, therefore, appear only minor while the damage to the occupants can be significant.
Whiplash is the most common type of injury which results from lower impact car crashes, but many forms of back and neck pain are often reported. Typically, symptoms will start with stiffness and aching as the initial shock subsides followed by neck & shoulder pain, back pain, headaches, muscle spasms, dizziness and pins and needles. In general, the symptoms that result from damage to the body from car accidents can last from a few weeks to months or become chronic problems lasting for years when appropriate treatment is not given.
Accidents and COVID – a compounding factor
The foregoing points have been a constant factor and are nothing new – we see many patients who have sustained an injury during an accident, and seek out chiropractic care after being told that their GP can do nothing further to reduce their pain other than offer painkillers. As a chiropractic clinic, we would never discourage you from seeing your GP, but under normal circumstances, our message is clear – see your chiropractor too!
But there’s a specific problem at the moment – figures from Emis health suggest that total consultations with GP’s have now dropped by about 40%. Those of us who do not consider ourselves to be in serious need of medical attention simply aren’t seeking help from the GP, and in many instances, people now seem to be deciding to simply try to wait for the pain to subside on its own. Sadly, a large body of research now indicates that this won’t be possible – a recent meta-study of car crash victims suffering from low back pain reported that for the patient with chronic low back pain, who was initially injured in an accident 63% of the time the pain developed into a long term, chronic condition. Big accident or little accident, the pain probably will not subside without some kind of care.
Had an accident – see the Chiropractor! (Perhaps online!)
At Complete Chiropractic, we’re now back up and running in a COVID secure way, with all necessary precautions taken to make your visit safe (but not miserable!). While we understand that for many attending any kind of clinic won’t be top of your list at the moment, we really do want to stress that injuries, such as whiplash or back pain caused by an accident are unlikely to subside on their own – whereas a short course of chiropractic treatment can often have you back to normal very quickly. It’s natural to have concerns about the virus after months of lockdown, but please do keep other health issues in mind – as with most things, treating accidents and injuries is very much easier (and quicker) to do early on. One day, COVID will be consigned to the rubbish bin of history and we will all go back to our normal lives – make sure you’re in great shape to do that, rather than still stuck at home dealing with pain.
For any clients (or would-be clients) who would like to get a chiropractic opinion on their case, but prefer not to visit the clinic at the moment, we are now also offering telehealth appointments which are an excellent “halfway house”.
 Paul S Nolet, Peter C Emary, Vicki L Kristman, Kent Murnaghan, Maurice P Zeegers, Michael D Freeman, Exposure to a Motor Vehicle Collision and the Risk of Future Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Accident; Analysis and Prevention 2020 (May 18)