Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope you all are doing your very best to stay healthy during these times. Do not discount the effects of adequate rest, a well-rounded diet, and consistent activity, as these are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle! With the holiday season approaching, many of us are preparing to drive several hours to visit family and friends. While I wish everyone safe travels, with a multitude of people on the road (and South Carolina’s roads being in the condition they are), car accidents are bound to occur. Accidents are scary enough to witness, but if you’re unlucky enough to be a part of one, they can wreak havoc on your body. Short of broken bones, car accidents can result in whiplash and subluxations within the spine. Today, I’ll be discussing chiropractic care’s rehabilitative tools, as well as how those tools can be used to lessen pain and increase mobility after an accident.
Now, the first stop after any severe car accident is likely to be the emergency room. Emergency care professionals will perform necessary tests to rule out internal bleeding, fractures, and other injuries. Blunt force trauma, which commonly occurs during car accidents, can damage the organs, cause bleeding within the brain, and result in spinal cord injuries. Any emergency facility will be equipped with doctors who specialize in treating trauma. They will probably conduct x-rays, CTs, ultrasounds, and/or MRIs to diagnose and treat any injuries you do have.
From this point, however, you may develop injuries in the days and months following your accident. These injuries may include bruising, swelling, neck and back pain, whiplash, and joint pain. These injuries may not become obvious for some time because, immediately following the accident, your body is producing enough adrenaline to mask the pain. From here, most emergency room patients are given opiates to manage their pain levels. As the production of adrenaline drops off and the pain medication is metabolized by the body, you’ll gain a greater awareness of the way your body has responded to the absorption of the impact of the collision. There is almost always some sort of after-effect from an accident. This is where chiropractic care can help.
It’s important to note: If you are involved in a car accident in which you are not at fault and the other party has adequate insurance, you can receive chiropractic care at no cost to you. Therefore, you should not hesitate to seek chiropractic care, in the event you begin to experience pain and discomfort following an accident.
Another important consideration is the severity of the accident. A common misconception is that a car accident has to be incredibly destructive to warrant rehabilitative care afterwards. Truthfully, even a minor fender-bender can result in injuries. During any collision, an excess of kinetic energy is being absorbed by your car and transferred into your body. In the case of a rear-end collision, the force of impact throws the body forward. Since our center of gravity is held back by our seatbelts (rule number one: always wear your seatbelt!), our heads carry this energy forward. As you can imagine, our necks bear the brunt of such an exchange. No matter the perceived severity of the accident, you should always assume your body needs attention, to some degree.
The next consideration is when you decide to seek medical care. Many individuals, when they do not feel pain immediately following their accident, are reluctant to seek care. They may assume they’re fine or may be embarrassed to seek medical attention when there's nothing obviously “wrong.” As previously mentioned, post-accident injuries can be masked by adrenaline or take days to manifest. Procrastinating medical care only serves to allow injuries to worsen.
As we’ve discussed on this blog before, the spine houses the spinal cord, a prominent third of the central nervous system. When vertebrae slide out of alignment and compress one of the sixty-two nerves radiating outward from the spine, this is called a subluxation. Not only are subluxations uncomfortable, they can also inhibit other necessary bodily functions, as important signals from the brain are unable to travel to their destination due to the nerve being compressed. One of the essential functions of chiropractic care is resolving these subluxations and, thus, facilitating the operation of the nervous system.
Subluxations are common after a car accident, as the force of impact can jar vertebrae out of place. Inflammation is also a common side effect of accidents. Inflammation is the body’s typical response to any injury and indicates the body is attempting to heal what has been damaged. Since blunt impact can result in soft-tissue damage throughout the body, inflammation can quickly spiral out of control after an accident. Those who already suffer with inflamed, swollen joints may even find this unbearable. Inflammatory back pain is characterized by stiffness and pain after periods of prolonged rest. You might wake up and, first thing in the morning, experience pain along your entire back. With chiropractic care, the body may lessen its cytokine production. Cytokines are a group of proteins controlled by the immune system which trigger the body’s inflammatory response. When the production of cytokines is lessened, inflammation within the body is curbed and its corresponding pain decreases as well.
Speaking of pain, chiropractic care can actually trigger the chemicals which regulate pain to be released within the brain. According to a study by The University of Spain, spinal manipulation increased oxytocin, neurotensin, and cortisol levels within the blood. Oxytocin is a hormone responsible for sensations of love, ecstasy, and pleasure. Neurotensin is an amino acid-based chemical responsible for regulating our dopamine pathways within the central nervous system and the contraction of the small intestine. Cortisol, while considered the “stress hormone,” is also responsible for managing how our bodies use carbs, proteins, and fats, as well as regulating our inflammation. As you can probably tell, any one of these chemicals would be welcome when attempting to manage post-accident pain. When introduced together, they provide a powerful pain management option.
After an accident, you’re likely to suffer from a limited range of motion. As your body comes to terms with what’s happened, inflammation begins to set in, and when joints remain out of alignment, loss of flexibility is sure to follow. Some of this stiffness may even be the result of scar tissue. Scar tissue, like inflammation, is the body's attempt to heal an injury. In this case, the body produces an excess of collagen, resulting in a scar-like growth on the affected area. Most scar tissue is not permanent and will heal on its own. However, chiropractors are privy to certain techniques which can aid the breakdown of these scar tissue build-ups.
When you visit a chiropractor for care following an accident, chances are you’ll already have a few concerns. You might be able to point to a specific area where you are hurting, or you may only be able to describe your discomfort in general terms. Either way, not to worry! One of the first steps for post-accident care is obtaining x-rays. Unlike the emergency care facility, we’re not exactly looking for broken bones. (Although, we’ll tell you if we see any!) As chiropractors, we’re looking for subluxations. Any area where the nerves are pinched and irritated will peak our interest. From there, we’ll perform a physical exam. During this exam, we’ll use palpation to manually seek subluxations and scar tissue formations. Once we have a better understanding of what we’re dealing with, we’re able to come up with a treatment plan targeting your specific maladies.
The wonderful thing about chiropractic can is its non-invasive approach. If you seek care before your injuries compound, you can set your body on a path of healing and avoid more aggressive treatments altogether! While chiropractic adjustment serves to realign the spine, massage therapy can work out scar tissue and bring blood flow to congested muscles.
Over the past twenty-one years at Lowcountry Chiropractic, we’ve seen our fair share of post-accident cases. Our cases aren’t closed until our patients are restored to their former state of health and are hopefully able to go about their day-to-day lives pain-free. It’s our responsibility to compile your case information, records of your treatment, and work with your attorney (if you have an attorney) to facilitate a settlement.
Chiropractic care following an accident is of the utmost importance. To avoid long-term, debilitating effects, you should absolutely receive the best care possible following your accident. We’re here to provide such care! I hope this post is a helpful resource for those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being involved in an accident. If you’re in need of post-accident care, do not hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We’ll be in touch quickly to schedule your appointment. I am Dr. Bob and, as always, I have your back covered. Stay safe and take care!
Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe! As we approach the end of fall and the beginning of winter, it’s almost time to give thanks for this year. Many of us don’t enjoy the prospect of growing older. We would rather keep turning the same age year after year. But growing older means growing wiser, too. Instead of succumbing to the stiffness and soreness associated with advanced age, I’m here to tell you there’s a reward for sticking to a healthy lifestyle and it’s not too late to start! When you take care of your body, your body takes care of you. And, while we cannot control some of the effects of aging, we can certainly do our part to slow down the process. My goal is for my patients to remain limber and spry into the later decades of their life, as this mobility adds to their quality of life. In today’s post, we’ll discuss what happens to the human spine over time, as well as a few ways you can help your back stay strong for many years to come. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, read on!
There are many reasons for chronic back pain. Pregnant women cite their baby bumps for not being able to sleep well, while others cite poor posture and spinal diseases. After a certain point however, many of us simply say, “I’m just getting old.” Age is considered the catch-all for a laundry list of ailments, but the truth is: There are plenty of sixty-year-olds who beat out thirty-year-olds in terms of mobility. How is that?
First, we must understand what happens to our backs as we age. Similar to a car with hundreds of thousands of miles, our bodies accumulate wear and tear over the course of our lives. Consider the nights you spent struggling to sleep on a poor mattress, the heavy book bag you carried all through school, the pronounced slouch you took when working at your desk for hours. These habits take their toll after a while.
The spine is composed of vertebrae--small bones which stack on top of one another--and discs--the jelly-centered in-between bits which absorb shock and keep our vertebrae from rubbing together as we move. Unfortunately, our discs are rubbed down throughout our lifetimes, resulting in pain from colliding vertebrae. Unlike tires on a car, these discs have no warranty. As the discs wear down, our spinal cord is compressed, putting pressure on the sixty-two nerves which branch off from our spine and causing pain.
During our first ten years of life, discal degeneration begins. Minor tears and fissures in our spinal tissue can contribute to discal herniation (when the jelly-like interior of a disk slips through a crack in the hard outer shell), which is a precursor to radiculopathy (a pinched nerve root). Radiculopathy is common in young adults.
Car accidents and their resulting whiplash, in addition to broken bones, can accelerate the formation of arthritis in the affected joints. Arthritis can then affect the junctions in our spine where our vertebrae meet, causing further irritation.
As we age, we struggle to absorb the necessary level of calcium and other vital nutrients, which results in weakened bones or osteoporosis. We become more prone to bone breaks and fractures. Osteoporosis can lead to bone remodeling and even rotatory deformities. A study in the Menopause Review found women experience a noted increase in back pain when undergoing perimenopause and menopause. Lower back pain is the most common health problem contributing to disability in older adults, with as many as 70% of those aged sixty-five and above reporting they suffer from LBP. All of these things contribute to the stark reality of many elderly, who live in near constant back pain, with limited mobility.
Returning to the car analogy: How do you care for your vehicle to ensure you’ll be able to drive as many miles as possible, as comfortably as possible? Well, you change the oil. You buy the best grade of gas. You put air in the tires and fix minor issues as soon as they appear. In this way, you can be fairly sure your car puts out the maximum amount of mileage. In the same way, when you take care of your body, you can reduce (or slow) some of the degenerative effects of aging.
One of the ways you can “take your body to the shop” is exercise. Research shows exercise is the reason certain older people experience less health problems as they age. In addition to girding the spine and staving off conditions like degenerative disc disease, exercise can help keep away a host of other ailments, including depression and anxiety. A study conducted to assess the effect of exercise on the elderly (who were already afflicted with lower back pain), yielded significant results. The conclusion was simple: “Strengthening exercise is a beneficial treatment for older people with LBP in reducing pain intensity, disability, and improved functional performances.”
While you need not sign up for a gym membership, you’ll want to dedicate equal focus to strength training as you do to cardio. Exercises which target the core and back muscles will help support your spine in its everyday activities. Another study showed an eight-week flexibility training program was able to improve the range of motion of elderly women. If you aren’t sure where to begin or you have not been active for many months, start by stretching. As your muscles acclimate to daily use, you’ll start to crave further movement. As well, stretching can help prevent injuries once you do start exercising vigorously.
Another key indicator of overall health is diet. Being overweight can contribute to back pain. According to a study conducted last year, those in the study with spinal pain had significantly poorer diets than those without. Those individuals with a healthy diet were 24% less likely to report spinal pain. Similarly, while fruit, whole grains, and dairy intake were associated with 20-26% lowered likelihood to experience chronic pain, added sugars in an individual’s diet were associated with a 49% increase in likelihood to experience chronic spinal pain. Without proper nutrients, structures within the body are unable to heal and restore themselves. Of course, a balanced diet will be recommended by any physician. However, if you aim to maintain a healthy spine, you’ll want to hone in on a few essential vitamins and minerals.
The first of these essentials is calcium. Calcium is one of the means of ensuring bone mass into our old age. A deficiency in calcium is one of the main contributors to brittle, weak bones. Calcium can be found in dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Dark, leafy greens and oily, fatty fish are also great sources. Additionally, almonds, oranges, tofu, and black strap molasses can help you reach your daily calcium intake goal. To absorb calcium, your body also needs vitamin D. Usually, these two supplements are paired together to ensure proper absorption. However, vitamin D can also be found in egg yolks, canned salmon with bones, and sunlight.
Calcium alone does not produce strong bones. To gain strong bones, you’ll also need magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for facilitating over 300 biochemical reactions within the body, as well as helping to form the matrix of our bones. Unfortunately, if this necessary magnesium cannot be found in our blood, our body will steal the mineral from our bones. If you are deficient in magnesium, you may experience cramps or muscle spasms often. The muscles which support and hold the spine are also susceptible to this tension. Seek magnesium in dark greens, dark chocolate, bananas, avocados, cashews, Brazil nuts, whole grains, and supplements.
Finally, there’s the benefits of seeking regular chiropractic care. Chiropractic care can treat chronic conditions and pain, but its uses are better served in preventing chronic conditions and pain. When left untreated, subluxations within the spine can worsen and disrupt our quality of life. When left for long periods--years and decades--these subluxations become limitations in movement and pain points.
Aging isn’t linear. It doesn’t happen all at once, either. Instead, numerous factors play into how someone ages, including: stress, diet, sleep, environment, socioeconomic status, access to healthcare, and more. Having access to chiropractic care, which was specifically created to care for the spine, surely impacts the aging process of those receiving treatment. Since the spine houses so many essential nerves, its health is a fundamental prerequisite for the health of the rest of the body. Regular chiropractic care is associated with lower levels of pain, especially pain related to the neck and back. Not only can chiropractic care help alleviate back pain in elderly patients, it can assist in maintaining the mobility of younger spines, as well.
These tips are for those who take their long-term health seriously and would like to be able to continue flipping cartwheels into their old age. (Or, learn how to flip cartwheels in their old age.) There’s no rule in any book which says older individuals must live with back pain and lessened mobility. We here at Lowcountry Chiropractic are here to help. Send us a quick email or a phone call and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. It’s my job to perform a thorough analysis of your situation and develop a plan for ensuring you garner as many “miles” as possible from your back. I hope this information was helpful to you! I look forward to seeing you and remember: I’m Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
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