Car accidents

Rear-end car accidents are extremely common, traffic is crowded and unpredictable, and crashes are frequent. Recently a Canadian study found that a significant percentage of people injured in these types of crashes end up with some kind of chronic pain. The report was conducted at the University of Alberta, and it looked at 268 people who had suffered a grade 1 or 2 neck injury from a car crash. These are the least severe kinds of injury, as the scale also includes grade 3 and 4.

The patients were surveyed at 3 months, 6 months, and at 1 year post-injury, and they were asked, “Do you feel that you have recovered from your injuries?”


The above graph shows the percentage of patients who reported pain at the different time intervals. The study found that 1-year after the crash, 18% of patients still reported pain. This confirms what previous research has found. A British research paper from 2009 reported that as many as 5% of patients might have permanent disability from a crash, and that more than 5% have nagging symptoms, even 10 years or more after the initial injury.

It is common for people to wait to seek treatment. Most people think, “I’ll just wait to see how I feel next week.” This approach can be a mistake. A number of scientific studies show that when a patient gets early treatment soon after a crash, they have better outcomes than those patients who wait.

During a crash, the tissues of your neck can be stretched or torn. You may not feel pain right away but as the tissues become swollen and inflamed, patients often wake up the next day with a sore, stiff neck. Pain and stiffness are signs of trauma to the ligaments and muscles of your neck. The body’s response to injury is to restrict movement and to heal the injury by sending white blood cells to the area. Your body will then begin repairing the injured area by laying down scar tissue.

The problem with scar tissue is that each joint in your neck has a fairly limited range of motion. Scar tissue reduces that motion even more, and if you don’t receive proper treatment, that can result in permanent limited mobility, chronic pain, and even spinal degeneration of the joints. Getting early treatment will break up this pattern by increasing movement in the injured area and by preventing the development of scar tissue.

If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider right away to prevent your symptoms from worsening. A doctor of chiropractic can help you recover from auto injuries like whiplash, headache, and neck pain.

Adapted from:


  • Ferrari R. A prospective study of the 1-year incidence of fibromyalgia after acute whiplash injury. Rheumatic & Musculoskeletal Disease 2015; doi:10.1136/rmdopen-2014-000007.
  • Bannister G, Amirfeyz R, Kelley S, Gargan M. Whiplash injury. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 2009;91B(7):845-850.
  • Rosenfeld M, Gunnarsson R, Borestein P. Early intervention in whiplash-associated disorders: a comparison of two treatment protocols. Spine 2000; 25(14): :1782-7.
  • Rosenfeld M, Seferiadis A, Carlsson J,and Gunnarsson R. Active intervention in patients with whiplash-associated disorders.Spine 2003; 28(22):2491-8.
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