Conditions & Advice: Effects of Road Traffic Accidents
Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) lead to almost half a million cases of whiplash injury in the UK each year (Association of British Insurers, 2009). Fatalities halved between 1988 and 2008 (ABI) but whiplash claims are increasing, reflecting the more subtle nature of injuries in modern cars. Sometimes people who have an RTA and find no broken bones assume that they have no injury and don't bother to seek treatment. However, even collisions at 10mph can cause damage to the neck and lower back (Thatcham).
Thatcham estimate that 72% of drivers have poorly adjusted head restraints , contributing to neck trauma and associated problems with headaches, balance and dizziness. Seatbelts, while saving many lives, pin the pelvis to the seat but allow the spine to lift up and then slam back down, straining the muscles, ligaments and joints in the lower back.
Immediately after a RTA, it is important to either go to hospital or see your GP to be checked over. The next few weeks may bring on a variety of symptoms, from neck pain and headache to anxiety, bowel disturbance and a clicky jaw. Keep a symptom diary if you are claiming for treatment or compensation. Allow yourself to rest, drink plenty of water and perhaps take arnica tablets to help you get over the shock.
Osteopaths are interested in the mechanics of the body and its capacity to adapt to injury. The effect of whiplash is felt throughout the body structure and depends on your existing health, the speed of impact, direction of impact and the way you were looking, the safety features of your car, whether you were the driver or a front or rear passenger, and how you responded to the trauma. If the accident was a long time ago (years or decades) an osteopath will also be interested in how your body has adapted to cope with the strains. Sometimes we don't see RTA injuries until they resurface after another trauma that prompts the person to seek help.
We can assess you and find how well your body is healing. Bear in mind that although the accident happened in a moment, it can take quite a long time to resolve the physical and emotional symptoms. Osteopathy works at the pace of the body, and sometimes this may seem slow. However, research shows that trauma heals better slower (Levine).
- Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS): http://www.mass.org.uk
- Thatcham: http://www.thatcham.org
- Dr P Levine: http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/art_memory.html
- DP & LS Heller (2002) “Crash Course – A Self Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma & Recovery” North Atlantic Books