Car accidents are traumatizing events. You can even consider them “exciting”, even in Bellingham, the city of subdued excitement. They don’t have to be catastrophic events to cause injury, because in every accident, there is a lot of force involved. Just think about it – while the fastest human can run about 28 mph, the average person can go about 15 mph. You wouldn’t want to slam into a tree at that speed, but imagine a car accident at that rate of speed. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it? Maybe a dent here and there, maybe your airbag deploys. But the same forces of physics are still all there. The difference is cars have steel cages, seat belts, and airbags meant to cushion the blows. An airbag is obviously not as hard as a tree trunk, but body parts are still being slammed into it.

Often people in a car accident don’t realize the extent of their injuries right away. A big factor in that is a key to our survival – at times of great stress or danger, we are flooded with adrenaline and endorphins. These natural chemicals dull pain and allow us to get out of a situation before we have to address our injuries. Makes sense, right? If you stepped on a thorn when being chased by a saber toothed tiger your body is going to focus on getting away from the tiger more than the thorn.

If you are in a car accident, what happens?

A sudden stop places a lot of stress on joints and other vulnerable parts of the body. Even with all the safety features engineers have come up with, this remains true. One of the most vulnerable parts of the body is the neck. Whiplash can still occur even with an airbag to cushion the force of the head traveling forward before it can hit the steering wheel or dashboard. Whiplash, like other soft tissue injuries, tend to result in soreness and pain, swelling and reduced mobility. Another unfortunate characteristic is that it can take some time for those symptoms to show, especially when the body is full of adrenaline and endorphins. Ultrasounds can show such damage, but first a body has to go to the right doctor to get one.

The trick is to make it a rule to go to the doctor after a car accident at least for a check up. Do this especially if you are the parent or guardian of a child involved in a car wreck, even a minor one. A good doctor will order tests to show tissue injuries even before pain signals what’s happening. This means that treatment can begin right away, and that usually keeps things from getting worse before they can get better.

So if you are involved in a car accident, call your doctor. Get treatment right away even if you think you’re okay. And if you are in an accident and feel the insurance company isn’t treating you fairly, give me a call.

For more on whiplash, visit these links:

A split second of whiplash can lead to years of pain

Good reasons to follow your doctor’s orders

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