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Massage Today
January, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 01

An Important Safety Check: Are Your Seat Belts Safe?

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Since opening my clinic in 1992, I have treated numerous individuals with soft tissue traumas resulting from a motor vehicle accident (MVA). According to the Centers for Disease (CDC), approximately 6,400 adults are injured daily in a crash.

While seat belts reduce serious crash related injuries and death by 50%, when improperly worn, they also cause trauma. Client education is an effective way to build your practice. Here are some important seat belt safety tips to protect yourself and share with your clients. Please watch the supporting video for more detail.

Newton's First Law of Motion, sometimes referred to as the law of inertia, basically states: an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion, at a constant speed and direction, unless acted upon by an outside force. When you are seated in a motor vehicle traveling 35 miles per hour and it suddenly stops, inertia continues to move your body forward. Only a thin strip of fabric, the seat belt, holds your body in place. It prevents you from flying forward, at a speed of 35 miles per hour that converts to 51.34 feet per second, smashing into the dashboard and windshield. A crash happens in a fraction of a second.

seat belt safety - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark For seat belts to perform, the seat and person must be in the correct position. The seat back should be upright. The person sits on their ischial tuberosities, with the hips, back and shoulders, against the seat back.

Before buckling the seat belt, confirm the material is flat and not twisted like a rope that could potentially cut into the body. The lap portion of the seatbelt is positioned across the pelvis, just below the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) (See Photo 1). Often, the lap belt is placed too high across the abdomen. In this position, during a collision, the lap belt cuts deep into the abdomen, causing trauma to the rectus abdominis, abdomenal oblique muscles and internal organs (See Photo 2).

seat belt safety - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The shoulder belt is positioned across the rib cage, sternum and midpoint of the clavicle (See Photo 1). Never place the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back. Internal organs are less likely to be injured when seat belts are positioned correctly (See Photo 3).

Remove any slack between the seat belt and the body to reduce the potential for movement during an accident. If adjustable, position the head restraint or "headrest" to minimize movement of the head during a collision (See Photo 3). Often, the headrest is too low, causing the neck to hyperextend and resulting in additional trauma.

seat belt safety - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Seat belts also cross the locations of myofascial trigger points in the rectus abdominis, that often referred pain into the abdomen and back (See Photos 4 and 5). A picture is worth a thousand words. Use visual aids like postural analysis photos and trigger point charts to educate clients of the myofascial involvement of their pain.

There is a big difference between knowing what to do and doing want you know. Build your practice and protect yourself, family, friends and clients by applying and sharing seat belt safety protocols.

rectus abdominis - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
rectus abdominis - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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