Anyone who has ever been in a car accident knows that results of the accident linger long after the accident site has been cleared. There’s insurance paperwork to fill out, repairs to be made, rental cars to deal with and sometimes physical injuries and pain. Even minor fender-benders can cause injuries to drivers and passengers. It’s easy to write off this pain as something that will go away on its own, but when it doesn’t it might be time to visit a chiropractor.
The funny thing about pain is the way it can show up when you least expect it. Even if you feel fine immediately after a car accident, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a medical practitioner. It is not unusual at all for the pain to present itself weeks or even months after an accident. Our bodies are very good at coping with changes and compensating for weakness or injury but eventually, the muscles, tendons, ligaments and even the skeletal system itself will show the results of this compensation and that is when pain can occur.
A chiropractor can diagnose pain and determine if the injury would benefit from chiropractic care or if it needs additional treatment. The diagnostic process typically involves a patient history and physical exam coupled with necessary x-rays to determine the extent of the injury. After that, a chiropractor can recommend a treatment plan based on the patient’s injury and the current state of health.
The most commonly treated car-accident related injuries that chiropractors treat are either whiplash related injuries or bruises and contusions. The pain from whiplash injuries can present itself as headaches, neck or even low back pain. Bruises and contusions are more easily seen with the naked eye, but even injuries like this can extend beyond the obvious impact site and present itself in different areas of the body.
Whiplash occurs when the body experiences violent movement in one direction and then again in the opposite direction. This is exactly what happens when you’re involved in a car accident. Your body is moving along with the car in one direction, then when the car is hit, the car stops, but your body doesn’t immediately stop until it is physically stopped by the seatbelt or some part of the vehicle, like the dashboard, steering wheel, window or airbag. This forces the body to a jerking stop and whiplash can occur. The risk of whiplash exists no matter how fast the car is moving.
Chiropractors are holistic practitioners who focus on improving the body’s biomechanics. They do this without invasive techniques like surgery and without pain medicine or drugs that are commonly prescribed by others in the medical community.
While pain medication does have its place, using it to mask symptoms of an underlying problem doesn’t do the patient any good. Chiropractors understand that in order to alleviate the pain they must get to the root cause of it. To do so, they examine the patient as a whole and provide treatments that align the body and get it back in proper working order.
Treatment for whiplash includes massage therapy, physiotherapy, ultrasound therapy or Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) and/or physical adjustments.
Treatment for contusions and bruises depends on the area that is injured but often includes rest and ice to reduce swelling, physiotherapy and massage or adjustments.
Like almost any treatment plan, the length of time it takes to fully recover from auto-accident related injuries depends a great deal on the patient and the type and location of the injuries. A patient’s age and general health will factor into recovery time as well as the location of their seat in the car at the time of the accident and the severity of the accident. If the chiropractor prescribes at-home exercises, the patient’s dedication to following those instructions will play into the recovery time too, but in general, most whiplash injuries can be resolved in as little as 6 months or as long as 18 months.
After one or two months of care, the chiropractor usually has a good idea about how the patient is responding to treatment and will adjust the treatment plan accordingly. Every patient’s treatment needs will be different just as every patient’s recovery experience will be different.
If you’ve been in a car accident, even if it was months or years ago, and are experiencing head, neck or back pain, it is worth it to consult a chiropractor. Pain or injuries that are left untreated can fester and result in life-long problems that can affect your quality of life.