My heart goes out to patients who come in due to auto accident injuries. I know full well that the injuries that occur in what appears to be even a low-speed accident can severely jar a patient’s body and result in severe pain. Without proper treatment, the risks become higher that the pain will become chronic and affect the patient years into the future. Without a doubt my primary goal is to help relieve the patient’s pain in the short term and prevent future disability in the long term.
At the same time there is a medical/legal aspect to consider. Many patients will retain an attorney to represent their interests in auto accidents in which they were not at fault. It is a sad truth that many times the opposing insurance company will downplay the severity of their injuries or promise payment for treatment-only to later decide that the treatment rendered was “unnecessary”. It becomes my job to give the attorneys the information they need to make their case. This entails documenting all the patient’s complaints, the manner in which their lives have been affected by the auto accident injuries, the results of my exam and any residuals from the auto accident that are still present at the end of treatment.
One important area of injury that I often see overlooked in personal injury cases is ligament damage to the neck area. The weight of the head on the relatively unstable neck renders the neck vulnerable to the forces that occur in an auto accident. The impact can create a whiplash effect that stretches and tears the delicate ligaments of the neck. The best way to look for the ligament damage is to take x-ray views with the head in full flexion (chin down) and full extension (chin up). I find it very common to see one vertebra slipping excessively forward and/or backward relative to the one below due to the stretched and damaged ligaments that should be supporting those bones.
Using the values and tables of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 5th Edition, an impairment rating can be established for this type of functional deficiency as well as many others.
Identifying this issue makes it easier for the patient’s attorney to demonstrate the severity of the patient’s injuries. Most importantly of all, it allows me to more fully address the patient’s injuries through chiropractic care so as to help prevent their pain and suffering in the future.