Where your health is concerned, there’s really no such thing as a minor car accident. Even a low-speed impact transmits tremendous force with stresses beyond those your body can normally withstand. Combine that with the effects of the adrenaline and endorphin rush that follows a sudden, traumatic experience, and you may not be aware you’re even injured for several days after the collision.
What’s more, the depth of damage is sometimes hard to anticipate, and there’s real possibility that you’ll carry long-term health issues for months and even years. Much depends on the type of collision and the conditions surrounding it. Restraining devices, such as seat belts and airbags, may help prevent serious injury while creating more modest long-term effects of their own.
Types of long-term injuries
Generally, long-term health issues resulting from car accidents fall into one of four categories. While not every accident creates long-range effects, each has this potential. Therefore, if you’re involved in an accident, you may wish to be aware and alert for signs of each of these injury types.
Perhaps the easiest to be aware of are physical injuries, things such as deep cuts or broken bones. The physical effects of whiplash are sometimes easy to recognize because of pain and stiffness, but whiplash is a complex condition that often goes beyond aches and pains.
In fact, it’s often connected with a third category of long-term effect, traumatic brain injuries, which can manifest in different ways. Finally, while post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t usually carry physical symptoms, the emotional and psychological damage may last long after physical damage is gone. Let’s look at each of these categories.
Long-term physical damage from car accidents
Minor cuts and bruises usually pass quickly, but deep cuts may cause scarring and broken bones could lead to premature arthritis or loss of joint mobility. Soft tissue damage and loss of joint alignment can impair your body’s ability to repair itself.
Complications of whiplash
A catch-all term for injuries caused by the physical forces exerted on the neck and head, whiplash can cause damage to soft tissue and bone alike in your neck and shoulders. Neck stiffness and pain are common, and there may be nerve issues also, such as numbness and tingling in your arms and hands.
Memory loss and mood disorders are also common. While whiplash usually resolves in a few months, in some cases symptoms may last longer, and some whiplash patients may develop chronic neck pain.
Traumatic brain injuries
When you suffer a blow to the head in an auto collision that’s sufficient to require a hospital stay, there’s a greater than 40% chance you’ll still feel its effects 12 months later. Since the brain controls everything in your body, any system may be affected by brain injury, from memory and cognition to motor control, hearing, and vision.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Accidents can be upsetting events and it’s not unusual to feel emotional and psychological reactions after a collision. Feelings such as anger, shock, fear, and mistrust often arise, but for most people, these pass in a few months.
PTSD develops when these feelings don’t fade with time. Dreams and flashbacks may keep effects fresh, and the strength of emotional response may start to change behavior.
Integrative medical treatment
With the wide range of potential damage resulting from automobile collisions, an integrative medical practice such as The Vanguard Clinic is an ideal way to follow up initial treatment after an accident. Chiropractic care combines well with conventional medicine to return your body to balance and minimize the long-term effects you experience after a car accident. Call or click today to make an appointment at our St. Louis, Missouri office.