Dear Dr. Caraotta,
My daughter was in an automobile accident 3 weeks ago and just had a sore neck a few days, and it cleared up. Last week she woke up with a lot of stiffness and pain in her neck that she never had before. Could this be due to the accident? Marie
Dr. Caraotta’s Response
It is very possible Marie. Many individuals are involved in automobile accidents or sustain work injuries and are unaware of the far reaching aspects that may follow as the result of the accident. Often times when individuals are involved in automobile accidents, they do not experience symptoms at the time of the accident. Symptom delay is typically due to a few reasons, namely:
1. Following an accident, in which soft tissue injury has occurred, it could take 12-24 hours for swelling to set in, and for pain to become apparent.
2. There is also a compensation factor. When a person injures a body part, often times a person will favor that area and adjacent body parts will temporarily work harder and take up the stress.
3. An Acortical diversion is also a factor in some accident cases.
Our body parts are represented in the cerebral cortex of our brain, and when one area is injured, our brain will often focus on the area of greater injury and a lesser injury will not be apparent for several days or weeks after the accident.
When symptom delay is apparent, often times patients minimize the seriousness of injuries and do not get examined by a health professional in a timely manner. A common misnomer is that a small a fender bender cannot produce any significant injury. We know this not to be true since often times bumpers can line up at the time of the impact and our body will often absorb the shock of the impact.
In some cases where soft tissue trauma is involved, such as a neck injury, undetected problems may result in ongoing and even permanent conditions. Some of the more common problems along these lines are as follows:
- Post concussive syndromes
- Lordosis reversal
- Degenerative Arthritis
- Joint restriction and muscular weakness
- Fibrotic musculature
- Recurrent and chronic pain syndromes
- Muscle contraction headaches
If you were or are involved in an automobile accident or any accident involving soft tissue compromise it behooves us to be evaluated in a timely fashion. There is no replacement for prevention!