I am a Chiropractor here in Tampa Florida. I just so happen to have an office in Seminole Heights that is right on one of the busiest roads in Tampa, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. And as I am right off the interstate on the way to St Joseph's Hospital there is always lots of traffic and auto accidents. I usually see one daily as well as having patients I also treat who were in involved in auto accidents. People who often get into those auto accidents usually end up with mild to severe headaches, neck, and back pain. Most everyone knows the best help for neck and back pain is physical medicine which Chiropractors provide, so of course, I also get tons of questions related to their pain as to what caused their pain. The most frequently asked question I get from patients and friends is why does their neck or back hurt so bad when they weren't traveling that fast and there is little to no damage to their car. The answer is kind of simple and bizarre. I remember reading an article form 2013 that Dr. Arthur Croft wrote in this article he had a graph showing what he called a "Risk Curve". Dr. Croft does a large amount of researching whiplash injuries as well as reviewing whiplash research done by other physicians and safety boards. In this article, they briefly discuss mechanisms for the reason of why little fender benders often render people with the quite a bit of neck and back pain.
So, I will try to do the same here to try to explain why it is that low-speed collisions generate moderate to severe neck and back pain.
This is just a general visual representation of data that was collected and computed it does not represent the author's precise calculations.
I figure it would be easier for me to explain why it is that people experience this phenomenon if there was a picture. As you can see the risk curve goes up and down and then up again. Representing the likelihood of injury at differential vehicle speeds. What we see is the likelihood goes up quickly from zero to ten miles an hour before falling as speeds approach the twenty plus mile per hour range.
Let's think about this logically most vehicles are designed to be rigid up to twelve or so miles per hour collision before the crumple zones. Your bumper is designed to withstand a ten mile an hour impact with no defect. So, between zero and approximately ten miles per hour, your car is the most rigid. Therefore, all of the impact forces are transmitted to the passengers of the vehicle. From a kinetic energy standpoint Stored kinetic energy (E); E = (1/2) mass X speed squared. As you increase your speed you square the impact velocity i.e. the faster you go the more energy you have the more force your body will feel during a collision.
It's usually that in the parking lot fender bender where you were only going five or so miles an hour that cause you absurd pain you weren't expecting because you were going so slow. As you can see from the chart while it is true you have more kinetic energy as your rate of speed increase the vehicle is also designed to absorb that kinetic energy and not transmit it to the passengers. It's physics and engineering combined. Cars are designed to withstand collisions at speeds known to be fatal in order to give us the best chance of survival. That's a no brainer safety is paramount. With that safety comes an inherent side effect at this time. Sometimes slower speed collisions can hurt people very badly, just as if they had been in a high-speed collision. But now don't go blaming the people that made the cars, cars these days are much safer. Drivers, on the other hand, we can't say the same. Always be safe when you're on the road and always watch out for others.
Feel free to contact the office at (813) 331-5753
Dr. Croft's bio http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/columnist_bio.php?id=1510