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Complex and accumulated trauma: A threat to victims

When you get hurt, you know what the injury is and how it affects you. You may go through physical therapy or have surgery to repair the damage to your body. While that may help you heal, there is no guarantee that the injury you suffered won't come back to haunt you later.

Many injuries begin to accumulate. For example, if you hurt your rotator cuff on the right arm, you might begin to feel trouble in your neck or other shoulder. Why? The body isn't working in the way it was intended, and other parts have to take on more work.

What is complex or accumulated trauma?

Complex trauma can be both physical and emotional. Mental health-wise, complex traumas build up over time.

For example, a person who was in a car accident as a child and witnessed death might have that trauma affecting their psychological outlook. If they go through another serious traumatic event, they could build on one another and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression or other diagnoses.

With physical injuries, the accumulation of new or worsening conditions weighs down the patient's abilities. What was once a minor injury may get worse, provoking past injuries or new injuries to flare. Now, when the patient has to seek care, they need care for multiple injuries stemming from a single injury at one point.

Why is it important to get care when you're hurt?

If you can get the right medical care for your first injury, then there is less chance of developing more injuries down the line. For example, if you suffer a broken leg and don't get it set correctly, it could cause problems with gait, your joint function or result in other wear and tear prematurely.

However, if you get the appropriate medical care, it's easier to fix the broken leg, set it and allow the body to rest and heal. This reduces the potential for complications like joint problems, which would stem from issues with the initial injury.

It is easy to ignore what seems like a minor injury, but it's best not to. You should always get medical care as soon as you're hurt, whether it's on the job or as a victim of a crash. By treating your initial injuries, you're reducing the risk of accumulating more injuries stemming from the primary wound. This helps you stay healthier for longer.

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