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Car accident injuries

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By Foot Health with Leana Leana Huntley is an English trained foot health practitioner attached to ALMAWI Limited – The Holistic Clinic. E-mail your questions / concerns / comments to lhuntley@almawiclinic.com; or contact her at 662-1732 Tuesday - Saturday. Check for the Clinic at www.almawiclinic.com.

It's a call you hope to never receive, or an experience you wish you'll never have! But accidents do happen. Some more tragic than others, some more painful than others, some cause scars (physical and/or emotional), some cause broken bones and some leave persons paralyzed, or at worst, dead.

Tis the Season, and with that said, it's understood that many drivers get on the road after the merriment with high alcohol levels in their system, hence the increased road accidents/fatalities this time of year. To top it all off, Trinidad and Tobago is extremely special, since we launch straight into the Carnival season after, so the merriment doesn't stop until the end of February/early March.

Many injuries can occur both internally and externally. Some popular areas that we would focus on are the neck, back/spine, upper and lower limbs.

Neck injuries

It varies, from whiplash, to disc injuries. Whiplash is one of the most common neck and back problems frequently associated with rear end impacts. When a vehicle is struck from behind, the force will throw the occupant violently forward and then push backward. This is called hyperextension and hyper flexion, and tends to be most serious when a victim's head is turned sideways at the moment of impact. Whiplash can cause severe neck and back pain, muscle spasms in the upper back and neck area, and chronic pain increases with movement.

Soft tissues made up of nerves, ligaments and muscles may also be injured. This can cause neck pain, and limitation of neck and head movement, affecting rotation and peripheral vision. It may be temporary or permanent, and can impact all aspects of life. If whiplash lasts for more than a few days after a car accident, physicians will prescribe medications, and often refer patients to chiropractors, physical therapists or massage therapists for rehabilitation. Electrical therapy and acupuncture are other alternatives recommended to treat with the nerves.

Back Injuries

There is more than one type of back injury that can be induced by a vehicular collision, and numerous corresponding symptoms and secondary conditions may occur with each. Some injuries may not appear or affect the victim immediately, but may surface days, weeks, months or even years after the accident. It is always recommended to visit a physician if you have been involved in an automobile accident.

Intervertebral discs make up the spine. Discs in the neck and spine may bulge, slip or rupture, hence the phrases bulging disc, slipped disc, and ruptured disc. CT and MRI scans are often used to diagnosis them.

Thoracic, mid-back, and lumbar lower back discs may also be injured. Compression fractures may be caused in such accidents causing permanent disability. Also, herniations or bulges may result in spinal cord compression. Symptoms of spinal injuries include arm and/or leg weakness, paralysis, difficulty in breathing, numbness, tingling, and abnormal bowel or bladder control. Disc injuries causing those symptoms sometimes require surgery to remove disc material or spinal fusion.

In the same way whiplash injures soft tissues of the neck along with the back nerves, ligaments and muscles may be traumatised by a car accident causing pain and inflammation. Prescriptive medications are often used initially for continuing pain and inflammation, but patients are further sent to physical therapists or chiropractors for rehabilitative therapy. Such therapy generally includes heat packs, infrared heat (via sauna), hot packs, hydrotherapy, cold packs, electrical stimulation, muscle strengthening, aqua therapy, traction, massage, acupuncture and/or steroid injections.

Herniated Disc

The impact of a vehicular collision may also cause a herniated disc in some instances. A herniated disc is essentially a section, disc, in the spinal cord that has been knocked out of place. Because the spinal cord is effectively a protective barrier for the nerves that run from the skull to the pelvis, when it occurs, nerves in the spine may become compressed. Compressed nerves in the spinal column may result in weakness, numbness, and severe lower back pain. Other symptoms of a herniated disc following an auto accident may include pain or numbness in the hip, legs, buttocks, calf, or feet.

Spinal Contusion

Spinal cord contusion, or bruising, is one of the most severe injuries associated with auto collisions. When spinal bruising takes place, considerable nerve damage may occur including loss of reflexes, loss of feeling in certain bodily areas, and temporary or permanent paralysis. Secondary afflictions of a spinal contusion may include: sexual dysfunction, decreased bladder control, and hypersensitivity in certain body parts.

Upper limbs

Hands, forearms, arms, shoulders, wrists and fingers are often injured in car accidents as well. Fractures are typical and treatment generally involves splints and casts. Occasionally, such injuries will require surgery in addition to splinting and casting. Therapy may also be required for increasing reduced strength and range of motion.

Rotator cuff injuries are frequently caused by car accidents. MRI scans are often used to diagnose rotator cuff tears, but since these tests are costly, doctors tend to wait for completion of physical therapy before ordering one. Severe shoulder injuries would require shoulder reconstruction.

Lower limbs

Hips, legs, knees, heels, ankles, and feet are also common injuries. Achilles tendon injuries, ankle sprains, collateral ligament injuries and stress fractures are typical. Fractures of the pelvis, femur, patella, tibia, and ankle may require casting or surgery. For serious hip and knee injuries, total hip replacements or total knee arthroplasty may be necessary.

Be merry for the season, but be careful on the road. Drivers, you need to be vigilant … drive for yourself and the other driver, since accidents can cause major emotional and physical damage.

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