Accidents which are seemingly benign because they occur at very low speeds or impact. Many people are surprised by the amount of degeneration or wear and tear in their spine because they could not isolate their problems to a specific event that was severe enough in their mind to have created such problems as disc degeneration, bulges, or protrusions. But research shows that even low-impact motor vehicle accidents will still produce significant negative changes in the spine. This research used MRI findings to compare cervical spinal conditions of normal subjects to those who had been in a low impact motor vehicle accident twelve to fourteen weeks earlier. The findings are remarkable. 

  • The cervical spines of 100 consecutive uninjured normal asymptomatic adults were compared to 100 adult accident victims following rear low-impact motor vehicle accidents using MRI technology.
  • Age range was 18 to 53 years, with a mean of 35 years.
  • Injured subjects were evaluated at 12 to 14 weeks after injury, following clinical resolved muscle spasm.
  • The injured subjects were initially evaluated at the time of injury with plain radiographs, all of which were
    interpreted as negative.
  • These authors found that the incidence of disc herniations increases from 2% in normal asymptomatic
    subjects to 28% in post-traumatic subjects following rear lower impact motor vehicle collisions. 
  • These authors believe that the flexion and extension MRI technique will optimize the functional significance of disc herniations in symptomatic patients, offering a distinct advantage to conventional MRI exams performed in the supine or neutral position.
  • This study shows that low impact collisions can still create significant spinal health findings.
  • The study also provides more evidence that not all patients recover in a period of 6 to 8 weeks post-
    accident since many of the whiplash patients still complains of neck pain, headaches, arm pain, and arm numbness 12 to 14 weeks after injury.

Chiropractors have communicated the importance of spinal check-ups for everyone suffering from any type of spinal trauma, especially those who have been in an automobile accident. This study proves that even low impact accidents of any type can and will create significant problems in the spine that must be addressed. Some problems even occur without the presence of symptoms or that become permanent well after the pain is gone. Subjects in a low-impact car accident lost 50% more range of motion in their spine, suffered 25 times more loss of proper neck curvature, and experienced fourteen times more disc herniations than those who had not been in a recent car accident. The findings of this study explain why anyone in any type of motor vehicle accident, high or low impact, need to have their spine evaluated and cared for as immediate as possible following the accident.