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What are Common Back Injuries Following a Crash, and How Does a Car Accident Chiropractor Treat Them?

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The health implications of a car crash may not be apparent when the shock and adrenaline rush you experience masks the discomfort of your injuries. For example, studies find that a lower back injury due to a car crash can predispose someone to a lifetime of lower back pain. Although you may not think your auto accident injuries are severe, you should seek medical attention from a back pain chiropractor who can detect problems before they lead to debilitating and long-term consequences.

An auto accident chiropractor has the experience and training to address various causes of back pain after a car accident. These are among the most common injuries a chiropractor may treat.

Whiplash Injury

Rear-end collision motor vehicle accidents can cause the cervical spine to compress and the head to slam against the seatback while the torso accelerates forward. Whiplash injuries occur when the neck thrusts forcefully and quickly forward, then backward in a series of opposing and abrupt movements, displacing and damaging the soft tissue of the neck, shoulders, and back. Whiplash injuries cause numerous symptoms other than neck pain, including:

  • Arm tingling or numbness
  • Headaches
  • Movement restriction
  • Back, shoulder, and arm pain
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Tinnitus

Chiropractic doctors begin whiplash treatment by evaluating the entire spine, checking for issues such as inflammation, tenderness, postural changes, and improper joint movement that may indicate vertebral misalignments. From there, the chiropractor may apply cold compresses to reduce inflammation and pain before applying other treatments.

For example, a chiropractor may recommend a flexion-distraction technique, having the patient lie on a traction table that gently stretches the spine in tiny increments throughout several sessions. The stretching restores flexibility to tight muscles and helps correct vertebral misalignments following a car accident.

Herniated Disc

Shock-absorbing cushions or discs between the spine’s vertebrae contain a gel-like substance and facilitate twisting and bending movements. The impact of car crashes can rupture a disc, causing its gel to leak and press on the surrounding nerves of the spine, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness. Disc herniation due to a car accident usually occurs at the neck or lower back.

A back pain chiropractor may use the flexion-distraction technique to stretch the spine while applying a gentle pumping motion with the hands to coax the gel back to its original position toward the center of the disc and away from surrounding nerves.

A car accident chiropractor may also apply pelvic blocking, which involves placing cushions in the shape of wedges under both sides of the pelvis to naturally encourage the disc to gravitate away from the nerve.

Misaligned Vertebrae

The human spine consists of 33 bones known as vertebrae. The vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx fuse together, while those in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar remain separate and distinct. An auto injury could displace any of the spine’s vertebrae, causing a wide range of physical problems, including pain in the head, neck, lower back, knees, and hips; tingling in the hands and feet; problems with fatigue; and systemic dysfunction. Symptoms are due to nerve compression by displaced vertebrae that reduce the range of motion and disrupt message flow between the nervous system and other body parts.

Chiropractic care after car accident injuries can correct vertebral subluxation. Among the various methods chiropractors use are:

  • The Diversified technique: A chiropractor makes small, quick thrusting movements with the hands to reposition the vertebrae. A familiar popping sound accompanies the release of air in the joints.  
  • The Thompson Drop-Table technique: This variation of the Diversified technique requires the chiropractor to make quick hand thrusts that initiate the downward movement of the table where the patient lies. The patient’s body weight helps to complete the adjustment. The body quickly follows as the table drops about one-half inch from beneath the patient, relying on gravity to complete the adjustment. This method requires less force from the chiropractor.
  • Activator technique: A chiropractor may use a handheld, spring-loaded, or electric adjusting instrument to deliver a quick, low-amplitude thrust to the neck or back. This method helps the back pain chiropractor treat anxious patients by allowing adjustments before the muscles tighten in anticipation. It can also correct vertebral subluxations of car accident patients who are not candidates for other types of manual adjustments.

Spine Fractures

Car accidents can cause spinal fractures that lead to debilitating symptoms, including pain, weakness, and paralysis. Unfortunately, signs of this condition may not be apparent in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Still, the fracture can produce gradual subluxations of the vertebrae that prevent nerve signals from traveling throughout the body.

Although visiting an auto accident chiropractor for injuries involving fractured vertebrae should not occur until the fractures heal, once they do, a chiropractor can treat the misalignments due to the fracture that cause discomfort. For example, the Gonstead technique is a standard that effectively realigns the vertebrae. A chiropractor can target specific areas using visualization, instrumentation, palpation, X-Ray, and analysis of patient symptoms. This adjustment method ensures that the chiropractor locates the exact subluxation requiring correction.

Lumbar Sprains and Strains

Although whiplash is one of the more common soft tissue injuries resulting from a car accident, a significant number of individuals experience other soft tissue injuries involving lumbar muscles and ligaments. The sudden force of a collision can cause muscles, ligaments, or tendons of the lower back to stretch or tear, causing intense pain, inflammation, constriction, or spasms.

Although lower back soft tissue injuries may accompany spinal misalignments, chiropractors try to avoid treating them using manipulation techniques that may be too aggressive for these injuries for the tissues to tolerate. Instead, they can provide relief with gentler methods, including cold compresses and gentle massage to reduce inflammation. In addition, chiropractic massage can speed healing by promoting blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissue. Reducing inflammation around the joints in the back also enables a back pain chiropractor to make more effective and long-lasting adjustments by reducing spasms that interfere with their efficacy.

Spinal Stenosis

Existing back conditions may be mild and not pose symptoms until inflammation due to trauma from a car accident occurs. Spinal stenosis is an example of a preexisting condition that a collision can aggravate. It involves narrowing vertebrae that constrict the nerves traveling through the spine. Symptoms include pain, numbness, reduction in bladder and bowel control, muscle weakness, and poor balance.

Chiropractors treat spinal stenosis discomfort following a car accident using a multistep approach, depending upon the degree of compression and where on the back it exists. Among the most effective chiropractic treatments for spinal stenosis are:

  • Manual adjustments: An auto accident chiropractor uses quick hand thrusts to relieve subluxations and open the spaces between vertebrae to remove pressure on nerves that causes pain and other symptoms. 
  • Massage: Traumatic car injuries can cause swelling of the tissues around already tight spaces between vertebrae. Chiropractors improve the range of motion by delivering oxygen-rich blood to tight muscles through massage. 
  • Exercise: Patients can see a chiropractor after car accident back injuries to exercise techniques to increase strength, improve range of motion, and address the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany spinal stenosis. For example, flexion exercises rounding the back can open tight spinal spaces to relieve lumbar stenosis discomfort following trauma.

How Can Chiropractors Prevent and Treat Scarring After an Auto Accident Injury?

Chiropractors use various techniques and tools to help patients recover from injuries due to an auto accident. Treatment does not involve medication and addresses the root cause of a patient’s discomfort. Seeing a back pain chiropractor after a car accident trauma may increase the recovery rate and help patients avoid the long-term consequences of their injuries, including the development of scar tissue.

Scar tissue that restricts movement and impinges nerves is one of the debilitating complications of back injuries following car accidents that chiropractors can treat. Once scar tissue forms, chiropractors can break it down and eliminate the discomfort it causes using:

  • Manual massage: Chiropractors can rub their hands and fingers over a broad area of scar tissue to help break it apart and prevent it from returning by promoting blood flow to the injury site.
  • The Graston technique: The chiropractor uses handheld concave and convex stainless-steel tools to brush over the site with scar tissue, causing micro-trauma that produces inflammation to encourage healing blood flow. 
  • Trigger point therapy: Sometimes, significant amounts of scar tissue can restrict motion and cause severe discomfort in accident victims. For example, a car accident chiropractor simultaneously kneads the scar tissue and periodically tests the patient’s range of motion to ensure the tissue is breaking apart. 

Schedule a Visit With a Back Pain Chiropractor

A car accident can cause debilitating back pain and stiffness that can worsen if you delay getting the appropriate treatment for your personal injury. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable back pain chiropractor on our team to help you begin the path to healing following a car accident.


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