After the Car Accident: Sometimes the Pain Just Doesn’t Go Away
A recent study about musculoskeletal pain and related pain found that people who reported being in a traffic crash had an 84% increased risk of developing chronic widespread pain (CWP).
The participants were tracked for four years, and asked to describe their overall health. Over the period of the study, they were asked if they had recently experienced any of six physically traumatic events: traffic crash, workplace injury, surgery, fracture, hospitalization or childbirth.
Gareth Jones, of the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry in Scotland, headed the study that examined 2,069 people who responded to a telephone survey.
Of the 241 participants who reported new chronic widespread pain (CWP), about a third reported at least one physically traumatic event, like a road traffic accident (RTA), during the study time frame.
Chronic Pain and Car Accidents
The study showed that involvement in an RTA specifically does appear to create a slight increase in the likelihood of the development of chronic widespread pain.
The researchers note that one explanation of their findings would suggest that the road traffic accidents (RTA) resulted in greater initial injury than the other traumatic events, including events such as bone fracture, but the study did not provide direct proof for such a claim.
The study indicates that future research is needed to examine what it is about involvement in an RTA, or about one’s reaction to an RTA, that increases the risk of CWP onset, which does not seem to occur with other traumatic events.
Because of the potential for chronic widespread pain following a car crash, it is all the more important to be certain you have had a complete physical examination after the accident.
Why Does It Have To Hurt?
While normal pain may be inconvenient or even debilitating, it serves a very useful purpose. What we may think of as “normal pain,” is important to our day-to-day survival. Pain may be felt as a prick, tingle, sting, burn or ache. Nerve receptors on the skin send an electrical impulse to the spinal cord and then on to our brain.
This is ordinary pain. This type of pain warns us that something isn’t right, that tells us the stove is hot, and warns us that if we leave our hand on it, we will suffer a severe burn.
This response is necessary; otherwise, we could suffer injuries and would take no action. We might not recognize we had done anything to injure ourselves until we noticed that our foot or hand had developed gangrene.
People with congenital analgesia (they can’t feel pain or don’t respond to the stimulus) are at constant risk to suffering unknown injuries.
Medically, pain is described as either acute or chronic. Acute pain is typically limited to a single event, such as hitting your finger with a hammer, a bee sting or cut with a knife. After a short time, the pain from these events goes away and the injury heals, often without a trace.
Chronic pain is a pain that doesn’t go away and is not susceptible to most medical treatments. It causes severe problems for patients. Even worse, a person may suffer from more than one chronic pain conditions at the same time.
Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself), psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside or outside the nervous system).
At its worst, chronic pain can make it virtually impossible to function, leading to depression and in some cases, death.
Because pain is a complex perception that varies among patients, even those who appear to have identical injuries or illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose a cause.
Chronic pain can take on a status of its own, separate from the underlying cause or condition. Since it can be made worse by environmental and psychological factors, it is important to understand the causes and attempt to minimize their individual effect.
Other similar conditions may or may not be related to chronic pain, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease.
If the CWP doesn’t manifest until months after the accident, absent a thorough examination and complete documentation, you could have a difficult time obtaining compensation.
An attorney experienced with handling car accidents can help answer your questions on your rights after an accident, and if your facts present a viable case.