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!
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