Whiplash, car accidents and chiropractic care: they all go together. Whiplash is a common car accident injury, and chiropractic treatment is one of the few means of relieving the associated pain. Chiropractors have the tools necessary to diagnose a whiplash injury in the first place, and then guide its natural healing.
Car accidents often include several soft tissue injuries. These can be very painful and difficult to diagnose and heal. Often, soft tissue injuries do not present immediately. Instead, they become apparent several days after the accident when what you thought was just general muscle strain becomes worse. Inflammation also plays a big part in these types of injuries and the amount of associated pain.
Back Pain From Car Accidents
In a society where almost everyone drives a vehicle, the number of car accidents in the US is fairly high. In 2013 alone, 2,046,000 people were injured in passenger vehicle accidents. In that same year, the rate of injury for every 100 million miles traveled in a vehicle was 78%. Your odds of being involved in a car accident are extremely high.
Of the people injured in car accidents every year, a majority suffer some type of back injury. The most common back injuries resulting from car accidents are:
The most common area for car accident back injuries is the lower back. This is the part of the spine that tends to flex the most, and is therefore more susceptible to movement injuries. A car accident might force the torso to bend unnaturally, causing injury to the lower back.
Bulging or Herniated Disc
The discs sit between the vertebrae of the spine and cushion their movement. The spine is a stack of small bones with these soft discs sandwiched in between. A disc is supposed to sit flat and level between the vertebrae, but the sudden movement of a car accident can change its positioning.
If the vertebrae are forced closer together on one side, they squeeze the disc and cause it to bulge out on the other side. If the force of the trauma is great enough, the disc will burst open, creating a herniated disc.
Transverse Process Fractures
These are cracks or breaks in the vertebrae that result from a twisting action during the accident. Everyone has a natural limit to the range of twisting motion of their spine. When that limit is exceeded, by the force of a car accident, for example, the vertebrae break in a crosswise pattern.
When the vertebrae are put under enormous pressure, they are crushed and can break. Auto accidents often result in this type of fracture in the spine, due to the forces from speed and the weight of the vehicle.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue is what holds the vertebrae together around the discs and connects the various muscles of the back. Muscles themselves are also considered soft tissue. During a car accident, these connections are often strained beyond their limits and can tear. Bruising or tearing of the soft tissue tends to involve nerves, and this type of injury can be extremely painful.
The violent movement of a car accident can fracture vertebrae and move them out of position. When this happens, soft tissue sometimes slides into the space, becomes inflamed and pushes the bones farther out of their natural position.
All of these common back injuries from car accidents are painful. The back is a very delicate and complex part of the body. When vertebrae or discs are broken or moved out of their natural positions, the spinal cord can be affected. As a main component of the central nervous system and a direct conduit to the brain, the spinal cord is crucial for almost all movements and sensory perceptions. It connects nerves that carry messages from the fingertips to the brain, and is even involved in hearing and sight.
Neck Pain From Car Accidents
The neck, which in many ways is just an extension of the back, is another area vulnerable to auto accident injuries. Containing the same anatomy as the back (the spinal cord wrapped by vertebrae separated and cushioned by discs), the neck has an additional vulnerability. The neck is somewhat precariously topped by the head, an eight-pound round weight.
While the neck naturally includes a wider range of motion than the back, it also has limitations and is particularly susceptible to injury when it is bent in any direction and forced to support the weight of the head without benefit of the back beneath it. Here are some common neck injuries that result from car accidents:
Cervical Nerve Pinch
Nerves run from the spinal cord in the neck down the arms and allow for movement of the arms and hands. Those same nerves also create feeling in the skin from the shoulder region down the arm. When the neck is injured in a car accident, these nerves can be pinched by spurs from broken bones or shifting discs and inflammation. The result could be numbness or pain all the way down to the fingers.
Neck Sprain or Strain
During an auto accident, the neck might bend too far forward or backward. This type of action may result in muscles being stretched beyond their limit and ultimately torn. Ligaments and other soft tissue structures can also be damaged in the neck from violent movements in an accident. Torn muscles are referred to as a neck strain. Damage to other soft tissue is called a neck sprain.
Just like in the back, the neck contains a stack of vertebrae separated by soft discs. The violent action from a car crash can cause the vertebrae to move and the discs to squeeze out from between them. A disc out of its normal position, or one that has ruptured, is called a herniated disc.
Neck injuries from car accidents can cause a number of issues beyond pain at the injury site. Pain might radiate down the arms to the hands. A neck injury could cause numbness in the shoulders, arms or hands, muscle weakness or slowed reflexes. Headaches can also be a result of car accident neck injuries.
Whiplash From Car Accident
Whiplash is a specific type of neck injury that is often caused by a car accident. It happens when the force of the impact pushes the body forward, but the head remains in place monetarily. When the body stops moving forward, the head is violently thrown forward and may travel even farther forward than the neck.
Whiplash tends to be caused by a two-part movement. The head is stretched back too far, and then is thrust forward. The weight of the head pulling on the neck in one direction and then the opposite is what makes this injury so severe.
Whiplash is one of those soft tissue injuries that does not develop right away. Approximately 12 to 24 hours after the accident, however, you might experience these symptoms:
- Reduced range of motion in the neck and upper body
- Stiff muscles in the neck
- Neck pain
- Tenderness in back of neck
Some signs of a more advanced whiplash injury include:
- Muscle spasms
- Arm and hand pain
- Lower back pain
- Numbness in arms and hands
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear ringing
- Blurred vision
Some of these symptoms can be scary, but with proper treatment, they should begin to clear up quickly.
Chiropractic Care for Car Accident Injuries
Chiropractors treat pain related to the misalignment of the spine, which makes chiropractic care the perfect application for injuries resulting from a car accident. With a number of hands-on treatment modalities, a chiropractor can help reposition vertebrae and discs that get moved out of their normal positions. By realigning the spine, pain and other symptoms from the injuries can be alleviated.
It is important to seek chiropractic care immediately following a car accident. Often, the full extent of the injuries is not felt right away, but chiropractors have diagnostic tools they can use to fully assess the situation. Even if the pain is not severe, the injury could be extensive, and the symptoms may compound over time.
Depending on the type and severity, there are a number of chiropractic treatment modalities used for car accident injuries, including:
- Ultrasound — Used in conjunction with light stretching and ice packs, ultrasound helps reduce swelling. The swelling has to be reduced in order to manipulate the muscles and bones back into their normal position. Reducing swelling also reduces some of the pain.
- Spinal manipulation — Either by hand or with the assistance of a specialized tool, the chiropractor attempts to gently push the spine back into its natural position so the joints can function properly.
- Manual joint resistance — A series of techniques are used to engage the natural energy of the muscles to help reposition and repair joints.
- Flexion-distraction — By applying a slow pumping action, the chiropractor attempts to reposition herniated discs without using direct force on the spine.
- Massage — By relaxing tightened muscles and increasing circulation to injured areas, therapeutic massage speeds healing and reduces pain.
- Soft tissue therapy — The Graston technique passes a hand-held instrument over soft tissue injuries with a gentle rhythm to assist in healing.
- Interferential electrical stimulation — Low-frequency electrical stimulation is applied to help reduce swelling.
- Trigger point therapy — Direct pressure applied to specific trigger points in the body helps loosen tight muscles and relieve pain, and allows bones to move back into their normal positions.
Chiropractic care, when applied as soon as practicable, can relieve pain and other symptoms sooner. Injuries that go untreated for long periods of time can become worse, including increased pain and more long-term effects.
Chiropractic Neck Adjustments
Neck injuries from car accidents can result in vertebral subluxation, a compression or irritation of the spinal cord. The cause of vertebral subluxation is vertebrae being misaligned and pressing or rubbing on the nerves, especially during normal range-of-motion activities.
Chiropractors are able to relieve a number of symptoms from vertebral subluxation by adjusting the positioning of the vertebrae in the neck. The subluxation itself may be released through chiropractic adjustments. This form of healing works on the central structure of the body — the spine — and does not require any drugs. By moving the spine into its natural position, neck adjustments heal injuries and improve health.
Neck adjustments not only relieve pain, but they are also known to correct other conditions. Hearing, sight, migraine headaches and a number of other serious conditions are affected by the natural functioning of nerves in the neck being distorted. When energy is flowing freely through the neck and nerves are not impinged, the senses work better. Chiropractic neck adjustments have actually been used to reverse hearing loss in some patients.
Manipulating the bones of the neck is a serious treatment and should only be done by a qualified chiropractor. Performing any treatments in this very sensitive area can be risky when the proper technique is not applied. Chiropractors have the tools to assess the situation and the knowledge and experience to know how best to apply this technique.
People who have experienced a neck adjustment and felt the release of pressure know how much this treatment modality contributes to their quality of life. By relieving pain and opening up the free flow of energy through delicate nerves from the head to the upper extremities, a neck adjustment heightens sensory perception and relieves pain.
Adjustments need to be repeated on a regular basis for a period of time, because muscles have memory and they want to pull the bones back to their old position. The number of repeat adjustments needed to resolve a certain condition is dependent on the amount of time the neck has been out of alignment, along with several other factors.
In time, however, the muscles will adjust to the new position and frequent adjustments will not be necessary.
Chiropractic Care in Franklin, TN
Chiropractic care not only speeds healing from injuries, but also improves the quality of life for many people living with chronic pain. When injuries are not treated right away, they tend to develop lasting conditions that result in chronic pain. Through chiropractic treatment, most chronic pain can be relieved over time.
When it comes to a car accident, it’s important that you see a chiropractor immediately, even if you don’t think you’re hurt badly. Finding a practitioner in your area will make it convenient to return for follow-up treatments throughout the healing process. For more information about our chiropractic services or to make an appointment, in Franklin, Tennessee, you can contact Crist Chiropractic & Wellness. We work with your body to restore health naturally.
If you need a chiropractor in Cool Springs, TN or anywhere in the western or central part of Tennessee, Crist Chiropractic & Wellness can help you. Our philosophy is to help our patients achieve total wellness through a natural and healthy lifestyle, and chiropractic services are an important component to achieving optimal health.