It is very common to have shoulder pain after a car crash. It makes sense if you look at how car crashes happen. If you are driving, it is likely you will have one or both hands on the steering wheel. Gripping the wheel during a crash as your body moves around can transfer serious stresses and energy through the shoulder joint. There are many other potential causes of shoulder pain after a car crash including seat belt injury, nerve stretch injuries to the neck, tearing of muscles and tissues of the neck and shoulder area and more. These types of pain and complaints are common with whiplash type accidents and are related to neck injuries and even severe headaches. Many of us have experienced the type of severe headache that starts with tension in the shoulder muscles, then the neck and finally advances to pain in the head. Migraine type headaches can start after whiplash and continue for years depending on the damage and how it is treated.
Seat belts save lives and are a very important part of the safety system in our modern cars, but they can hurt you too. In a sudden crash your car may stop moving or be accelerated very quickly. Unfortunately our bodies are suspended in the seats of the auto and the car actually moves underneath us as the crash occurs. A good example of this would be a rear-ended collision. Your vehicle is stopped, and then hit from behind by another car. First, your head is moved abruptly rearward as your car jumps forward under your body, then the seat back loads up with energy as your body presses rearward while the car is moving forward. At this point the seat starts to recoil and begins to apply forward motion to your body, then, once your body is moving forward quickly, your seat belt stops that motion and catches your body. Much of the force from this stop is transferred through the shoulder where the seat belt crosses over. The entire action takes only about 600 miliseconds and it can be easy to forget how much pressure was applied to your shoulder once the pain starts later on.
There are many nerves that leave the spine in the neck region and supply sensation and function to the shoulder and arm. These nerves leave the spine and form a complex network of trunks and branches known as the brachial plexus. The nerves leaving this plexus go to the shoulder and arm. Stretched nerve roots, herniated or bulging discs, swollen tissues and arthritic changes and bone spurs can all affect the nerves that go to your shoulder. Pain can be referred to the shoulder from several different areas and can make it difficult to understand and diagnose the pain you are feeling. If you have shoulder pain, severe headaches, neck injuries or other symptoms of whiplash following a car crash it is important to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment for your condition. Give us a call at the Utah Health Center and arrange for a consultation today. We can help with shoulder pain after a car crash and other pains and problems associated with whiplash injuries.