Car Accident Injuries

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from TLR. I’m here with Dana Ranahan of Body Works Sports Physiotherapy in North Vancouver. And we’re gonna talk about car accidents. You’ve had some snow down there in the big smoke.

Dana: That’s right, Mark we sure did around Christmas time and just after we had a lot more snow than we’re used to in the lower mainland that’s for sure. And it makes roads pretty slippery.

Mark: So are you starting to see a lot more car accident kind of cases? Is that what’s going on?

Dana: Yes, that’s for sure the case. And usually the case, whenever there’s a snowfall in the lower mainland, I think a lot of times it’s quite wet and slippery. So we ended up seeing a lot of car accidents and that is when people start to come in and get help. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for things to settle down. And this year was definitely big year for snow. We had a lot of snow around the Christmas time and through the holidays into early January, which was initially quite fluffy and then turned slippy. So I think the conditions were changing and often very difficult for people.

And I understand ICBC had a lot more accidents the end of the year compared to previous years. So it sounds like accidents are up. So I’m expecting, we’re going to be seeing more of this kind of injury very soon.

Mark: So, what are the typical range of problems that people come in with after a car accident?

Dana: Well, car accident injuries can vary depending on the type of impact. And so a lot of times we’ll see rear-end injuries, which are probably classic for the whiplash that people have seen before. And, you know, if it’s a, rear-ender where you either bumped into someone in front of you or someone bumps behind you and rear ends you, you get a quick kind of whipping action.

There’s usually an acceleration and deceleration phase of that movement where your neck gets kind of thrown forward and throw them back or vice versa, depending on the impact. And sometimes there’s multiple impacts if there’s fender benders bumping each other. So in those kinds of cases that we would probably see a lot of neck pain, headaches, sometimes concussion type injuries, if they’ve hit hard enough. They might hit the steering wheel or something like that.

So I think commonly, I mean, you can also still have lower back and other injuries associated with it, but probably the most common with a rear-ender would be like a whiplash type injury. That’s the main one. And then there’s other impacts where you might have a side impact or if you T-boned a car and you know, then you’re going to start to get some rotational or twisting type forces that come on.

And with our seatbelt is usually like one shoulder across to the opposite hip, there’s usually a lot of twisting injuries that can happen in the mid back. And I think those are probably one of the most difficult ones to resolve because people might even develop quite a bit of low back pain if their mid back and low back are related together.

So depending on the type of impact that’s happened and the speed of course, you’ll get a range of things. Usually from neck to low back, mid back pain, and sometimes hip pain and other areas. But those are the prime ones.

Mark: So upper body kind of issues, but generally focused around the neck and head, is that fair to say?

Dana: Yeah, very common. So that’s why I think whiplash is one of the most common injuries that we would see after a car accident. And some people might not think about their neck as referring it you know, if they’ve got headaches or sometimes light sensitivity. Our eyes can be really sensitive. But then that can play a big role in those components. So there can be other factors like dizziness and nausea. Sometimes people feel unsettled stomach et cetera. So the neck and head are big areas of symptoms after car accident. And sometimes I think people don’t don’t know what to do to help themselves in those cases.

Mark: So when you’re diagnosing it, what kind of process do you go through?

Dana: Well, when someone comes in and we go through a full assessment where we ask about, well, what kind of accident it was. Were you the driver or the passenger? And what was the impact? Because that helps us to understand the forces that their body went through. And then we’ll correlate that with the symptoms that they have.

And then we’ll go through and talk a bit about medical history. You know, if they are vulnerable to injuries or have an issue with blood clotting or whatnot. So we just rule out anything obvious there. And then we’ll go through a full physical exam to determine what structures are involved. Did they sprain a joint? Did they pull muscles? Usually it’s kind of a combination of things. Have they pinched a nerve in the process? And then we can direct our treatment to the areas that need addressing.

If it’s headaches, let’s say, most often they have some upper neck tightness where maybe they’ve sprained some ligaments or definitely sprained the muscles. And so then we would work on trying to restore the mobility as they come in. But we need to understand what’s happening before we can treat them. So the assessment is really key in terms of getting people on the right path.

Mark: So once you move into, you’ve assessed them, now it’s treating time. What’s the kind of range of treatments that they’re going to go through?

Dana: Well, typically we would do some manual therapy techniques, which is where we would use our hands to help restore movement. So if the muscle’s tight or the joint stiff, we would help mobilize a few things. And then one of the most important things would be giving people some home exercise or empowering them with things that they can do to change things for themselves.
So in the neck area, a lot of people are working at computer. So a key thing is really working on their posture. If their necks sore and their heads sore, they might be pulling into a forward head posture and making it worse. So a lot of it is a combination of things. Sometimes we’ll use a technique which is called IMS or intramuscular stimulation, which is an acupuncture technique, which help release muscles.

So we use that and the manual therapy to help them move better, and then empower them with things they can do to maintain and get stronger. It does take some time.

Mark: So what would be a typical timeframe for say, your run of the mill whiplash injury? I know there’s no such thing, but let’s average it out.

Dana: Well, I think statistically, when they’ve done research, looking at this, as we look at roughly an eight week timeframe for healing of some of the soft tissue. And so it can be sometimes six to eight weeks people can feel quite a bit better. Oftentimes I think it does take a little bit longer than that. It could be like an 8 to 12 week timeframe. Sort of depends on the severity of the injury. But the tissue needs to heal and then get moving better and get stronger and build back up towards full strength. So that all takes time. So it could be kind of between 6 to 12 weeks depending.

Mark: And how much does it change if somebody is really diligent in doing their home exercises, compared to somebody who forgets for a couple of weeks and then goes, oh, just my appointments tomorrow. I’m going to do them tonight.

I think you do find that because we all lead busy lives. And sometimes we’re in pain, it’s harder to stay focused on the things that we need to do to feel better. But sometimes the pain does provoke us, so I think we see a mix. But if you are diligent with your exercises, that makes a huge difference. And honestly, if you can get in earlier and start addressing whatever the issue is sooner, that was also helpful. Sometimes people leave it along while hoping it will resolve. And then by the time they come, it’s a few months down the path and the process might be a little longer and it might take more work on their part.

But honestly, if you’re diligent with your exercises and you can work on maintaining your mobility, improving posture, et cetera, and getting stronger. Your recovery will go much faster. Most cases.

So I know we’re going to address this in a separate video, but I know ICBC has had a little bit of a come to the physiotherapist office moment, shall we say, where they’re a little bit better supporting the people and the recovery. So can you give us the kind of synopsis view of that?

Dana: Yeah, they had a change in their structure a couple of years ago where they are now trying to, I think it moved to more of a no fault situation, where before they covered much less funding for physiotherapy after an accident. And you did use to require a doctor’s note to attend physiotherapy, if you had an ICBC claim.

Now ICBC has opened it up and that they’re covering a whole lot more per visit, which is great for patients. So they don’t have to pay as much out of pocket. Of course, no one wants to get in an accident, and when it does happen, sometimes people are off work or whatnot and finances can be tight.

So I think it’s important that they have more funding and they are giving you a certain number of visits covered with a valid claim number and not necessarily requiring that physicians note to start physio. So those are really big steps for us. Certainly we’re in communication with the physician, if need be or referring patients back, if there’s anything that requires medical x-rays or whatnot. But I think it’s a helpful step for people to not have to go through the physician, which might be a bill interfering in their process. There might be another step that they have to do, they don’t have time for.

Mark: And it can be hard to get a doctor.

Dana: Well, exactly. Yeah. Nowadays the doctors are pretty busy.

Mark: So, if you have been in a car accident, the guys to see in North Vancouver are Body Works Physiotherapy. You can check out their website, You can book online there, or you can give them a call 604-983-6616. Get in and get treated, get started sooner, and you’ll be back on the path of feeling a lot better from your accident. Thanks, Dana.
Thanks Mark.