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Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries – Primary Problem Spot and Treatment

June 10, 2008

by: Danielle Emhof, MPT

Motor vehicle accidents are a very common reason for referral to physical therapy.  More often than not, patients complain of neck pain. In my early years as a PT, I would of course go directly to the area of pain for treatment. This often included moist heat, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, massage, gentle stretching.  This worked sometimes, but often only for a limited time. In other words, the patient would report relief for a few hours, maybe even a whole day, but then the symptoms would return to where they started. I found this very frustrating, and realized that there must be another piece to the puzzle.

Finally, the light bulb went on when taking a manual therapy class focusing on the pelvis and sacrum. When a motor vehicle accident occurs, what part of the body receives the impact first? NOT the head and neck! The impact usually occurs at the level of the bumpers of the car, which is at the hips and pelvis! Yes the force then translates up to cause a neck whiplash injury in most cases, but the pelvis receives the largest part of the blow. So it makes sense that the pelvis is likely injured, the joints out of place.  Since this is the base of the spine, if it is not in alignment, the rest of the spine can’t be!

It is amazing to me that more health care practitioners don’t think to examine the pelvis and hips after a motor vehicle accident. For me it is now a regular practice, and the treatment results are very impressive.  Often recovery happens much more quickly, and with less pain since we are initially not even touching/aggravating the place that hurts!

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