By Nathan Browne, DC.
Not a day goes by that I don’t get asked a question that spikes my interest. This is a good thing as I love to educate and clear up common misconceptions by bringing clarity to a topic. Recently, I had a patient ask me how soon someone should see a chiropractor after being involved in a car accident. She was inquiring for a friend who lived out of state and was leery of seeking treatment from a chiropractor as she had never seen one before. Before I jump into my answer let me preface it by saying that no single accident or trauma is the same and often times a chiropractor should not be considered the first or even second option as the symptoms may be outside of the scope of practice. In this case it was a fender bender in which the victim was rear ended causing her neck to snap back, causing whiplash. She did not require medical attention at the scene nor did she suffer any open wounds or broken bones. In fact, like many accident victims, she didn’t experience any immediate symptoms as she drove home, all be it in a state of shock. She rested that evening without incident but woke up the next morning with a very stiff neck.
Symptoms like this often time take 24-48 hours to really set in and in many instances longer. Now the question arises, what should I do? Ice? Heat? Rest? Call my PCP? Get a massage? Call a chiropractor? The answer to the question is not a right or wrong answer, but a good, better and best. Ice, heat, rest, massage are all good options for temporary management of the pain. If you are experiencing symptoms including but not limited to, dizziness, severe headache, nausea, or shortness of breath, your PCP or the ER would be the best options. Most commonly, stiffness, soreness and cramping will take up to 48 hours if not more to kick in, the treatment of these symptoms are usually the ones people seek out chiropractic care for. Now, the question to be answered is, how soon after the accident should someone seek chiropractic care? Like all the scenarios mentioned above, it depends on the chiropractor- not all chiros practice the same way.
At Reuter Chiropractic we treat every case individually. Often times a chiropractic adjustment is not beneficial on the first, second or even third visit after a trauma as there may be excessive swelling in the muscles and surrounding tissues. We offer a wide range of therapies that complement the chiropractic adjustment and support the healing process. An adjustment is only as good as it holds, if the muscles and surrounding tissues are compromised the adjustment is less likely to restore structural balance as it is intended to. One thing that is very important to remember is that sometimes less is more in terms of treatment as the body needs time to metabolize the changes, doing too much, too soon can have a negative effect on the healing process. If you decide to seek chiropractic care after a car accident it is fair to ask what the expectations are in terms of treatment milestones. What I mean by this is being told you need to be seen 2-3 times a week for 4-6 weeks is to vague. Ask what treatment milestones or quantified improvements are we looking to accomplish as having tangible goals to work toward is very important. How long it’s going to take is often difficult to predict as everyone heals at a different rate. All that being said, consistency is crucial to achieving the desired results. If you fail to make your appointments your doctor can not evaluate your progress appropriately and thus, prolong the healing process.
It is also important to know that chiropractors treat more than just the spine. Shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes are also fair game. One final thought, when deciding on which route to go with in seeking care, use the internet to your advantage. Take the time and read patient testimonials, social media outlets such as Facebook and Yelp as they are often a great tool to use when seeking a quality physician. Lastly, if you’ve sought out legal counsel for your accident understand that you are in no way forced to see a doctor that your attorney works closely with, it is your choice. I hope you never have to use the information provided here but if you get in an accident you’ll have it in your back pocket.