Chiropractic Care After a Car Accident

There’s nothing quite like a car accident to completely ruin your day, week, or year! I think we can all agree that a car accident is the last thing anyone needs. Life is challenging enough without adding a car accident into the equation.
I cannot over-emphasize how imperative it is to be evaluated by a chiropractor as soon as possible following a car accident! The amount of time you let lapse between the auto injury and the time you start chiropractic treatment is crucial. “The sooner the better” is an understatement when it comes to damage occurring in the delicate soft tissues and ligaments of the neck and lower back from a car accident.

A number of clinical studies show that when a person seeks treatment quickly after a car accident, they have a better outcome than those patients who wait to get help. One such study in 2003 was published in the highly respected journal, Spine, that compared the long-term efficacy of active intervention with that of standard intervention. They also measured the effect of early versus delayed initiation of intervention. What that means is they wanted to see if there was a difference in prognosis with patients that began an active form of mobilization rehabilitation when compared to the medical standard of rest, medication, and immobilization with a soft collar.

They found that in patients with whiplash-associated disorders, active intervention is significantly more effective in reducing pain intensity and sick leave, and in retaining/regaining total range of motion than those that were under the standard medical care of rest, drugs, and immobilization. This is because we understand that during a collision, the vulnerable structures of your neck can be stretched or torn. Our bodies were not built to withstand the destructive forces in a collision!

After an accident, you may not feel soreness right away. But as the tissues become irritated and inflamed, patients often wake up the next day tender and with a stiff neck. Soreness and tightness are prime indicators of damage to the ligaments and muscles of your spine. But why is that?

The human body’s reaction to injury is to prohibit activity and to repair the injury by sending white blood cells to the region. This creates swelling, or edema, and floods the surrounding tissues with inflammation. Your body will then begin mending the wounded area by laying down scar tissue.
Scar tissue is problematic in that each segment of your spine has a fairly restricted range of motion. Scar tissue decreases that mobility even more, and if you don’t receive proper chiropractic care, that can result in permanently limited flexibility, long-term pain, and even spinal degeneration of the joints.

Receiving early treatment will break up this pattern by increasing motion in the damaged area, reducing inflammation, and by protecting against the formation of scar tissue.

Please take your early symptoms after a crash seriously and don’t wait to get care! In fact, research shows that a significant percentage of rear-end collisions result in pain and disability even ten years after the incident!

It’s very common for some of my patients to have questions about why they’re in so much pain after a car crash. Sometimes, the crash didn’t even do much damage to the car…but they’re still in a lot of pain. And there is an important reason for this: Minimal or no property damage to your car does not mean you have not sustained an injury. Collisions in the 6-12 mph range cause the highest percentage of whiplash injuries. The elasticity of the vehicle accounts for this difference. Simply put, cars are designed to handle higher impacts better than lower impacts by absorbing more of the energy. So a person may be more prone to injury at in lower speed collisions than higher speed collisions.

There are certain risk factors that make people more susceptible to injuries during a car accident. One very important factor is the position of the head at the moment of impact. If the head is turned or the headrest is not positioned slightly higher than the back of the head then the spine is more susceptible to injury especially to the ligament that holds the vertebrae in alignment.

The most common injury we see with auto accidents is whiplash. And it is often one of the hardest to treat. Nearly 300,000 whiplash injuries occur each year, many at low speeds. It takes only a 2.5 mile-per-hour change in speed to injure the neck. When a part of the body is whipped back and then forward beyond its normal limits, micro-tears can develop in the surrounding ligaments. Like I said earlier, many accident victims don’t notice any pain at first. It’s not until the micro-tears start to swell that the symptoms set in, including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Reduced range of motion in the neckv
  • Arm pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Low back pain
  • Radiating pain into the head, shoulders, arms or mid back
  • Generalized hypersensitivity
  • TMJ pain
  • Mid Back Pain
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired cognitive function

Without proper treatment, some injuries can continue to cause pain for years. Remember, as soft tissue injuries heal, they develop scar tissue. If the spine is not aligned and full range of motion isn’t recovered before scarring sets in, it can ultimately prevent normal functioning. This can lead to long-term problems including an increased risk for headaches, back pain and sleep disturbances leading to fatigue and immune compromise. A ligamentous injury may lead to instability and cause the progression of degenerative joint changes such as arthritis and degenerative disc disease. Although some of these changes may occur naturally with aging, injury to the disc or ligaments can accelerate this process significantly.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that for car accident victims, who are often left in debilitating pain, a doctor of chiropractic can be a beacon of hope. In fact, a British study performed in 1996 found that 93% of the people studied with persistent whiplash pain improved with chiropractic care. While many medical doctors prescribe painkillers as a first line of treatment, chiropractors can help heal even severe motor vehicle injuries without the use of drugs!

If you’ve been in a car accident, you need to be assessed by a chiropractor who is familiar with car accident injuries. Car accident injuries can be hidden, not revealing pain or limited mobility until months or even years later. Chiropractors are trained to detect these hidden injuries. We perform functional tests to assess soft tissue damage, structural damage, muscle strength, range of motion, joint and nerve function–signs of injury that other medical practitioners (despite their good intentions) may miss.
I have 15 years of experience treating patients in car accidents. If you are considering chiropractic care for your auto accident injuries, I want to invite you to come see us at Living Well Balanced, here in Raleigh, North Carolina.

When you visit our office, we will perform a thorough examination of your spine and soft tissues, your muscles. If any injuries are found after your assessment, our team of experts at Living Well Balanced will create a care plan personalized to you and your specific injuries. We are dedicated to help restore balance to your life by relieving pain and getting you back to normal!

We provide a rich protocol for nutritional support, therapeutic massage, extensive stretching and supportive exercises that accelerate healing and provide long-term recovery and rehabilitation. We understand that the physical and emotional stress that a car accident can cause can be very overwhelming. We gently walk you through the healing process, one step at a time!

As always, if you have more questions about chiropractic care after a car accident, please feel free to call us at (919) 926-8890 or fill out a form online for more information.

Please share this video with a loved one that may be going through a tough time after a car accident.