Whiplash is the term used to describe a neck injury that occurs when an individual's head is thrown back and forth in a violent manner during a car accident. However, lower back injuries can also be present and manifest themselves after time has passed and the adrenaline rush from a car accident has subsided.
Muscle strains may only be a minor component in the neck and back pain associated with car accidents. The spinal vertebra may also be misaligned, creating long term pain and other maladies long after the muscle injuries have healed.
What are the initial treatments for neck and back pain after a car accident?
The first few days after a car accident require immobilization of the affected areas, along with rest, limited activity, and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce both swelling and pain. Periodic intervals of warming with a heating pad will also allow muscles to stretch and relax.
However, after a few days have passed, limited activity such as walking is recommended to keep muscles from becoming too stiff and inflexible. Ongoing problems with headaches or pain in the neck, back, or lower body may indicate issues with spinal misalignment that require the services of a chiropractor.
What can a chiropractor do to determine the cause of pain associated with neck or back injuries?
An initial consultation with a chiropractor can determine if the spinal vertebra are out of alignment or if diagnostic tests such as MRI or CT scans are required. When the spinal vertebra are forced out of alignment, the spinal fluid that surrounds the nerves of the spinal cord becomes disturbed and irritated. This can lead to pain in both the areas of injury and in various other areas of the body.
The nerves that run along the length of the spinal column transmit messages from the brain to every area of the body. When these messages are disrupted or corrupted, pain can manifest itself in diverse places and healing can be curtailed.
How can a chiropractor treat these injuries?
A chiropractor will manually manipulate the spinal vertebra until they are returned to their proper alignment. Muscles that have become tightened because of inactivity resulting from an accident will need to be stretched to allow the newly realigned vertebra to remain in place.
This cannot be done in a single treatment, because the muscles will need to be stretched and vertebra kept in proper form for the duration of the healing process, and possibly on an ongoing basis, depending on the severity of the event and the general physical condition of the patient.
The chiropractor will also provide stretching and other exercises to be performed at home, as well as advice on spinal health, physical conditioning, and weight control. There no magic involved, just patience and hard work until the patient is back to their former activity level (or maybe even at a higher level, depending on their physical condition before their accident).