How Chiropractors Help After Auto Accidents
Chiropractic is a philosophy that treats the whole body as an interconnected set of systems that have the natural power to heal themselves when they are put in the right position to do so. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that chiropractors are valuable resources for anyone who has suffered jostling and strains in an auto accident. But what exactly can chiropractors do to help injured people heal better, or prevent problems from becoming debilitating? The exact answer varies by office, but there are some issues chiropractors frequently address that we want everyone to know they can get help for.
Whiplash tends to get a lot of attention in chiropractic media because it is very common and can be quite serious. It is defined as an injury to the neck resulting from rapid acceleration and deceleration, which generally occurs in the context of a rear-end collision. Whiplash often causes the neck to feel stiff and sore, and can also trigger headaches. (These are called cervicogenic headaches since they originate from a problem in the neck, often a nerve impingement or obstruction in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.) It may also result in fatigue and pain in the muscles in the shoulder and upper back that connect to the neck, which have to compensate for tightness in the tissues they attach to or balance.
Symptoms of whiplash sometimes take several days to develop, but they can linger for weeks or months. They may also come and go. For this reason, we suggest visiting a chiropractor for diagnostics after a car crash in which you suffered whiplash even if you don’t feel anything wrong yet or the problem seems to have already cleared up.
Pain in the shoulder is sometimes referred from the neck, but it’s possible that the shoulder itself is injured. The shoulder joint is the most mobile in the body, and while it is supported by strong connective tissues, its complexity makes it vulnerable to injury. The shoulder joint is held in place by the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons. When these issues are strained, they will tighten, making it harder for the shoulder to move. The cartilage sealing the shoulder’s ball-and-socket joint may also be damaged. If components of the shoulder are out of place, they may compress the bursa, a sac that provides cushioning and produces lubricating fluid, resulting in inflammation.
Chiropractors will both relieve symptoms associated with an injury and allow the body to heal in a manner that will restore its strength and healthy range of mobility. If the bones are not fractured, we will usually be able to mobilize them back into place. Chiropractors are trained in a wide variety of adjustments to ensure we are able to use the appropriate one for a particular joint. Many offices also provide decompression therapy in cases where a herniated disc in the neck needs to be moved back into place to relieve an impinged nerve.
Chiropractic offices also generally offer soft tissue therapies to allow damaged muscles and tendons to heal without scarring or break up scar tissue that is already restricting movement. Common physical modalities include electric muscle stimulation, low level laser therapy, and therapeutic ultrasound. Rehabilitative exercises will also prevent the muscles from atrophying and allow them to provide the joints with better support in the future.