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The average person will be involved in 3-4 car crashes during his/her lifetime. 90% of motor vehicle collisions occur at speeds less than 14 mph, and it is at these speed that most whiplash related injuries occur. Of people injured in a car crash 50% never fully recover and approximately 5% will remain permanently disabled. When you understand how likely you are to being injured in a car crash, you want to know the mistakes you want to avoid if you are in a car crash.

Mistake 1:  Thinking that just because there is little visible damage to the car that you are not injured. 

Insurance adjusters frequently claim that if there is no or little property damage then there are no injuries. This could not be further from the truth.  In-fact there is zero correlation between property damage and occupant injuries. A human crash study looked at human subjects in a low-speed rear-end collision with a change of velocity of 2.5 mph & 5 mph. The study found that 29% and 38% of individuals had symptoms, predominantly headaches and neck pain, following rear-end collisions with change of velocity of 2.5 & 5 mph.[1]  Croft and Freeman found there was no correlation between risk of injury, injury severity and property damage. Federal law stipulates that all vehicle bumpers must be able to withstand a rear-end impact without damage at impacts up to 5 mph. This does not mean if there is not bumper dame the crash was bellow 5 mph as many vehicle bumpers can withstand impacts greater than 5 mph. The evidence is clear there can be little or no property damage and individuals can still be injured.[2]

Mistake 2:  Taking direct autobody shop referrals from car insurance companies.

Car insurance companies frequently engage in direct referral auto body shop relationships.  If you have ever been in a car crash or had your vehicle damage and your car insurance gave you a list of their preferred body shops you have experienced this.  The problem with direct referral relationships between insurance companies and auto body shops is the insurance company will make referral arrangements based on the auto body shop doing repairs at a reduced cost.  The frequently means replacing parts with cheaper parts or cutting corners.  Another way insurance companies keeps cost down is they may have an agreement that the auto body shop will only charge 3 hours of labor for something that might actually take 5 hours.  Not only does this lead to potential poor-quality body work on your vehicle, it also underestimates the true value of the property damage.  This becomes a bigger problem when insurance companies base the amount they are willing to pay out for bodily injuries based on the value in property damage.  At a bare minimum take your vehicle to an independent body shop and have them look under the vehicle.  And remember you never know the true extent of the property damage until they tear the car down.

If you think you’ve suffered recent whiplash, call our Littleton Chiropractic office at 303.904.0331 and remember that all consultations are free. 

Mistake 3:  Not getting proper medical care.

Not getting the proper treatment is a major contributing factor for individuals with long-term chronic pain following a whiplash injury.  Almost 90% of patients that still have symptoms after 3 months will remain in chronic pain long-term.  Very few treatments have been found to be effective in treating these patients.  A research paper published by Gargan and Bannister looked at treating patients with long-term chronic pain with chiropractic adjustments.  In their study they average patient had been in chronic pain for 15.5 months prior to receive chiropractic care.  It’s important to understand the chronicity of their pain because patients with pain this long rarely recover.  However, 93% of patients recovered under chiropractic care. This is after other treatments had all failed.[3]

The reason chiropractic treatments are so successful in treating injuries from whiplash trauma is specific adjustments helps restore normal motion in joints.  Following an injury and damage to soft tissue the body lays down scare tissue.  Scare tissue stiffens and weakens the joint. This leaves the joint more prone to future injuries and signals chronic pain signals.  When joints don’t move it increases the transmission of stress signals know as nociception. Nociception becomes pain when it reaches the parts of the brain responsible for conscious awareness. Chiropractic adjustments reduce pain by restoring normal motion to joints, and thereby shutting down the pain signals.

For the best results you want to get treatment at a clinic that combines chiropractic care with additional medical services such as physical therapy and active rehab, trigger point injections and regenerative therapy such as enriched plasma.

About the Author

Chris Gubbels DC, CICE, Chiropractor Fort Collins, is the clinic director of Square ONE Advanced Spine Correction Center.  He holds advanced certifications and training in whiplash injury biomechanics & traumatology, personal injury and scoliosis.  He certified through the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners to do impairment ratings.

  • Brault, J.R., et al., Clinical response of human subjects to rear-end automobile collisions. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 1998. 79(1): p. 72-80.
  • Freeman, M.D., et al., Significant spinal injury resulting from low-level accelerations: a case series of roller coaster injuries. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 2005. 86(11): p. 2126-30.
  • Woodward, M.N., et al., Chiropractic treatment of chronic ‘whiplash’ injuries. Injury, 1996. 27(9): p. 643-5.


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