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Your Seat Belt Can Save Your Life, But For A Price

In our discussion about whiplash last week, we stressed the importance of wearing your seat belt to help prevent any number of injuries in an automobile accident.

Most of us appreciate this is a safety tip to take to heart. According to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S., seatbelts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.

So, people of Kanata, wear your seatbelts. It’s just common sense. (Not to mention that getting caught without it on incurs a fine of up to $1,000 and two demerit points in Ontario.)

Seat belt side effects

There is no disputing the benefits of a restraint that keeps you from being knocked around in a crash like a rag doll in a clothes dryer.

On the other hand, have you ever heard of “seat belt syndrome?” How about “seat belt sign?”

A seat belt is a fairly narrow band of fabric, strapped across your hips and chest. If a crash is violent
enough, the sudden and fierce pressure of the belt against your body can be comparable to being struck with a blunt object.

Seat belt sign is the abrasion or bruising that can be left as a result. If the belt is worn too high on the neck, it can also cause vascular injury – that’s why it’s always important to adjust the belt so it rides further down on the chest and shoulder. With children, this is of course one reason for the booster seat.

But the pressure of the belt can also cause an intra-abdominal injury. This risk doubles in instances where you have seat belt sign following the collision.

That’s why it’s vital to be checked by qualified medical professionals after anything more than a minor fender bender, even if you “feel OK.”

Back to the neck

The forward and back snap of your neck in an accident can cause whiplash

Then there is the spine and neck. Nothing about how a seat belt is designed or meant to be worn prevents that forward and back snap of your head in a crash, the abrupt “extension/flexion” that can cause whiplash and other injuries.

In fact, Dr. Ruth Jackson, the first female member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, wrote in The Cervical Syndrome, way back in 1978, that a waist belt “has very little, if any, deterring effect on the cervical spine as the head and neck continue forward motion. Even the addition of a shoulder harness will not relieve, but will only increase, the forces which must be absorbed by the head and neck, although such harness
may prevent contact injuries.”

And to quote another medical study, The Medical Effects of Seat Belt Legislation in the United Kingdom: “We predicted an increase in the case of two injuries – sprains of the neck and fractures of the sternum. Both were confirmed.” This after seat belt use became mandatory.

It’s a rough ride, no matter what

That’s because your waist where it’s restrained becomes a fulcrum. The force of the crash is trying to fold your body – literally touch your head to your toes. The shoulder strap prevents this, but your head and other shoulder are still flinging forward, which wrenches your neck and upper spine in a twisting motion.

Again, it’s better than crashing into the seat in front of you, through the windshield, or being ejected from the vehicle altogether.

But the takeaway is this: Just because you are using your vehicle’s equipped safety features in the proper way is no guarantee that a crash, even one you walk away from that seems minor, hasn’t injured you in some way.

We can help

If you have seat belt sign, or feel any kind of abdominal discomfort, get checked by a qualified medical professional.

And if you notice any of the whiplash symptoms we covered in last week’s post, or any other kind of pain in your shoulders or spine, get that checked too and come see us, your Kanata chiropractic team.

Chiropractors are, after all, primary care providers who specialize in spinal health – this includes your neck. We can diagnose and treat many of the injuries that typically arise from a whiplash or other related spinal injuries.

Did you find this information useful?

I hope you did. Please share it with your friends and anyone you know who’s looking for a Kanata chiropractor. You can also follow Hazeldean Family Chiropractic on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where we regularly post on other health-related topics. Our website also has great information about Chiropractic care and other health topics.

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