I have lately had a spate of new patients coming in due to auto accidents. Almost to a person, they were at a complete stop in traffic or at an intersection when they were rear-ended. Although I’ve worked on patients who have been injured in auto accidents for my entire 16 years of practice, it seems that this type of accident is happening more often. I attribute this to more distracted driving and people rushing about more than ever.
For the hapless driver that is about to get rear-ended a few things can be done to minimize injury:
Before ever getting in the situation, one’s potential for neck injury can be helped by making sure that the headrest on the back of the seat is raised high enough. If it is too low, it will make matters worse. When the driver’s car gets hit from behind, the driver’s head will get whipped back over the headrest which will act as a fulcrum and cause more injury than if no headrest were present. Instead, the headrest should be raised high enough that it stops the driver’s head from being whipped backward into full extension. How high is high enough? If you put your fingers on the back of your head, you will feel a little bump that everybody has for muscle attachments. The headrest should at least completely cover that bump.
What to do if you notice a car in your rear view mirror barreling down on you? You have to act quickly. First of all, avoid the temptation to stare at the upcoming car in your rear view mirror. If your head is turned at the time of the impact, you will tend to suffer more injury to your neck. Instead, look straight ahead with your head back against the headrest. Tighten your muscles. It’s a myth that you will be less injured if you are relaxed. Studies show that being caught my surprise is a risk factor in worsening of auto injuries. If your muscles are tight, they will help protect your ligaments from being stretched and injured.
Lastly, you want to keep your car from being pushed forward quickly. This is what causes you to be whipped around within it and injured. To make your car as immovable as possible, put your transmission or gear shift into park and step on the brake. The impact will cause more damage to your car and less damage to you. Don’t worry. You can always get a new car courtesy of the insurance of the person that hit you. You get one body per lifetime.
And, of course, see a chiropractor for treatment of injuries from the auto accident. Studies have shown that early treatment will result in quicker recovery and, more importantly, less chronic pain from auto accident injuries.