Can a minor auto accident cause long-lasting chronic pain?
Yes, even if a car crash seems relatively minor, the trauma can be significant and lasting. Some patients develop persistent, widespread pain and agonizing symptoms.
This is the body and brain doing their job, and it’s why it’s so important to see a pain doctor soon after an accident. Your pain specialist can diagnose the impact of a crash and diagnose any underlying issues.
Early intervention can help prevent long-term pain.
After an injury, there are often changes in the brain and nervous system, which affect major parts of the body. The tissues of your spine can be stretched or torn, inflamed, and swollen. This sends a pain alert signal to the brain, telling the central nervous system that something is off and causing muscles in the region to contract and protect the area from further problems.
If the injury isn’t treated quickly, a painful cycle begins. The injured area keeps sending pain alerts, and each time, your central nervous system responds. The brain’s pain centers can get over-stimulated or sensitized to pain stimuli, making your body overly sensitive to pain in general.
The cycle can continue and grow — a snowball effect — as the body adjusts to keep up with the pain signals. This can cause sensations of widespread pain far beyond the scope of the original injury.
Research indicates that auto injury victims with chronic pain are more likely to experience pain in their hands and feet, even if those body regions were not directly injured in the crash. This can be the result of the brain and body’s response to that cycle of chronic pain.
Scientists have also found actual brain function changes after an auto injury, changes that show up in brain scans and impact the injured patient’s wellbeing. Once the cycle starts, it can take time to reverse it and get the nervous system back to normal.
If you’ve been in an auto accident, visit your pain doctor soon after, and don’t take minor pains lightly. They could be a signal of more serious complications. Your pain physician can diagnose the root causes of pain and develop an effective treatment plan to get relief.
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