Dealing with Chronic Pain and PTSD after Car Accidents or Surgery

Dealing with Chronic Pain and PTSD after Car Accidents or Surgery

Chronic Pains are rampant after accidents, surgery and Trauma or PTSD. It has similar symptoms for various incidents but the common denominator is the element of Post-Traumatic Stress.

Traffic or falling accidents seem straightforward – apparently. A spleen might be torn, concussion could occur, bones could be broken, etc. But what if emergency care and rehabilitation patches you up and you are still suffering from inexplicable chronic joint pains, migraines, fatigue, restless legs?

What do you do when doctors and specialists give you their ‘all clear’ with their medical checks and turn a blind ear and eye to your complaints of pain, or even tell you that you are imagining it?

Chronic Pain and Fatigue related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and PTSD

With all the knowledge available on trauma this, sadly, is still a very common response by the medical system. The misunderstanding of ‘specialists’ is sometimes even more disheartening than the accident itself.

I have heard similar stories so many times now, when working with people who have had a car or falling accident and are left with chronic pain and fatigue. Fortunately, in most cases, I am able to help them move forward and reduce a good percentage of their pain-symptoms or resolve their condition.

But let’s take a closer look at a case-history to see what is going on and find out why we still suffer long after the event of an accident:

Post-Traumatic Stress after an Accident

James has been in a minor car accident where the car in front of his didn’t respect the red-stop-light in time. James hit the car from the side, was thrown forward, hitting the steering wheel and then falling to the ground on his left side. After hitting the ground his first reaction was to get up and make sure the driver hadn’t escaped, but, due to shock and pain in his left leg, he fell to the ground again. He did not speak to the other driver as the incident was further handled by the police who arrived quickly on the scene.

Two years after the incident James still suffers from indigestion, tight neck and jaw chronic pain that give him a lot of trouble with concentration, in sitting for extended periods of time, and basically preoccupies him continuously. His physical injuries from the fall itself; left knee and lower back pains, have healed properly. His doctor and traumatologist dismiss his further complaints of pain, simply leaving him to his own devices.

The Nervous System Responses and PTSD

When we are bracing ourselves in anticipation of an accident, or a similar situation, our body releases a lot of nor/adrenaline to activate the body-mind in order to fight or flight. When fight or flight is not possible, as is the case with a sudden impact, your body-mind goes into a ‘freeze’ response immediately.

A major player in the brain that regulates the fight/flight/freeze mechanism is the pons and medulla, the brain stem, situated in the back of the head just above the neck. When this activation stays on ‘ON’ it chronically tenses up the muscles in the neck, jaws and affects the vagus nerve that regulates digestion.

Furthermore the emotion that is present during and after the accident is often tied up with the activation. In James’ case he got really anxious that the driver might escape as well as being angry with him for causing the accident.

Post-Traumatic Stress and Dealing with PTSD

In the session we took James back to the accident and within a safe and contained setting allowed him to speak out and feel his activation, fear, nervousness and above all his anger. Helping him to feel his nervousness and activation released his tensions in the solar plexus. Getting him to vocalize his anger helped him to complete his fight/flight mechanism and release his neck and jaw muscles and related pons-medulla brain structures. Making the link within the accident as an action shared, the emotion and body responses helped him to process the work on a cognitive level.

Dive deeper into this topic by reading

The Trauma Essential Series

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