One in four seniors who have been in a car accident will have lasting pain, and many will struggle to preform basic daily activities in the months that follow, according to a new study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Car crashes accounted for the second most common form of trauma in senior citizens, trailing only falls. Researchers already knew car crashes caused significant injuries among all populations, but they wanted to better understand the effects on the older population. To do this, researchers recruited 161 patients over the age of 65 who went to the emergency room but not the hospital after a car crash. Patients with severe injuries, like fractures, major lacerations and brain or spine injuries were not included in the study.
“The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency of persistent pain and functional decline and identify patient characteristics associated with these outcomes,” said lead author Timothy Platts-Mills in an email to Reuters Health.
Car Crash Study
Researchers interviewed the patients in the emergency room, and they completed follow-up assessments at six weeks, six months and one year after the accident. Patients were asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10, both overall and in 15 different parts of the body. A person who reported a pain level of 4 or greater after six months was considered to have persistent pain in the area. Individuals were also asked about their ability to preform routine functions, like walking, climbing stairs and carrying groceries.
After looking at the data, researchers uncovered:
- During the emergency room visit, 72 patients reported having moderate to severe pain.
- After six months, 26 percent were still suffering from moderate to severe pain related to the car crash.
- People with persistent pain were more likely to have pain in the head, neck, jaw, lower back or legs.
- Patients with persistent pain were more likely to have “pain interference,” meaning they had more troubles preforming daily activities and were more likely to have altered their living situation to get extra help.
Platts-Mills said the goal of the study was to learn more about pain symptoms after a crash so they can create new strategies to prevent persistent pain.
“More effective control of pain symptoms in the emergency department and in the early recovery period may reduce persistent pain,” he said.
He also said people who have been in a crash should visit an injury specialist, especially if pain symptoms continue.
“If you or a family or friend is in a car crash, it is important to be re-evaluated if pain symptoms persist,” he concluded.