About Car Accidents and Chiropractic Care
From a major car accident to “just a fender bender”, the body responds differently than your damaged car. Following any accident, patients can feel pain throughout the body. In serious cases, a patient may be taken to the emergency room immediately following an accident. In less serious cases, the pain or complaints may not appear for a few hours, days or even weeks following the accident.
When an accident occurs, many patients will have soft tissue damage that we can’t see. Treatment can vary depending on severity of the injury and depending on the patient.
Treatment may vary depending on the diagnosis. Treatment may include chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, massage therapy and possibly physical therapy. X-rays or other diagnostic tests may be necessary to determine the best care for your condition.
The Doctors of Chiropractic at ADIO Chiropractic Center can help you determine what is causing your pain and the best steps to alleviate your symptoms.
Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Injury: Whiplash
Situation: Cervical acceleration/deceleration injury—commonly referred to as whiplash—occurs when traumatic forces are applied to the neck. Shearing forces such as a sudden car impact, or a slip and fall, or a sports injury can all result in damage and inflammation of the spine.
Causes: When shearing forces are applied to the spine—such as in a rear end or other car collision—the violence of the impact causes destructive damage to the muscles, joints and ligaments of the spine. The ligaments are the spine’s support system and once disrupted or damaged, they do not grow back like other tissues. This leaves the joints of the spine misaligned with less stability and excess joint movement which causes further damage and hastens the degenerative processes.
Symptoms: Damage from whiplash can occur immediately, but sometimes the symptoms are not realized for days, weeks or months. Symptoms can be as simple as neck stiffness to much more complex neurologic symptoms that include headaches, memory loss, insomnia, and dizziness. Decrease in motion of the neck with muscular pain is common. Pain can be sharp—shooting to a stiff ache at times. Radiating pain can occur to the head, jaw, upper back, arm, forearm and hands.
Treatment: A doctor of chiropractic is your health care provider who is specifically trained to evaluate your whiplash injury and treat its symptoms. A chiropractor can immediately take X-rays and determine the extent of the damage to the spine. Massage therapy, acupuncture, and physical therapy, as well as other treatment modalities such as ultrasound, cold laser, and ice/heat, may be used in combination with your chiropractic care.
Cervical Disc Herniation
Situation: Intervertebral discs act as a strong yet elastic suspension system between each of the vertebrae of the spinal column. These joints, along with others, allow for very dynamic movements such as rotation and bending of the head.
Causes: Discs are composed of two basic structures, the inner gelatinous layer called the nucleus pulposus and the durable outer disc wall called the annulus fibrosis. The breakdown of these two layers leads to a disc herniation.
A herniation begins with small tears that create a fragile site within the disc wall. This weakness allows the material of the nucleus to leak into the disc wall where sensitive nerve receptors are concentrated. The leaking can cause localized neck pain, muscle ache, stiffness and headaches. If enough material leaks out a deformation of the disc can occur causing the compression of spinal nerves or the spinal cord. This pressure can cause an array of symptoms including radiating pain, tingling and loss of function on one or both sides of the body.
The herniation of an intervertebral disc can happen suddenly and without warning causing excruciating pain and loss of function to the body. Age, social activities, work, diet, weight, genetics and trauma can all factor into the development of disc herniations.
Symptoms: Symptoms can start with a general ache, stiffness in the neck, tightness between the shoulders, headaches and occasional sharp pain with movement. Over time, symptoms can progress to sharp pain in the neck, pain between the shoulder blades, muscle spasms and altered head posture. In severe cases, symptoms can include muscle weakness of the arms and hands, tingling or numbness in hands, immobility of the head and decreased reflexes.
Treatment: Treatment options can include chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage therapy. Your chiropractor will help determine which treatments are appropriate for your specific condition. The doctor might also order special testing such as an MRI or make a referral to your medical doctor for specific medications to help make you comfortable. In non-responsive or severe cases surgery may be needed.
Situation: Cervical radiculopathy is a general diagnosis to describe pain from the irritation of the nerves that originate in the neck which innervate—or supply—the shoulder, arms, upper back, forearms and hands. When interference at the nerve root occur—either from injury or irritation—symptoms will be demonstrated in one or all of these areas. Nerve root irritations or injury can occur from several tissues and conditions.
Causes: There are three primary causes ofcervical radiculopathy . . . disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, and degenerative joint disease.
Herniation of a disc in the neck begins with small tears that create a fragile site within the disc wall. This weakness allows the material of the nucleus to leak into the disc wall where sensitive nerve receptors are concentrated. This leaking fluid can cause localized neck pain, muscle ache, stiffness and headaches. If enough material leaks out, the disc can become deformed, causing the compression of spinal nerves or the spinal cord. This pressure can result in an array of symptoms including radiating pain, tingling and loss of function on one or both sides of the body.
Degenerative disc disease is a gradual collapse of the intervertebral discs, causing the bones of the spine . . . also called the vertebrae . . . to slide closer together and misalign. This misalignment causes compression of the nerve root producing localized pain, as well as radiating pain from the neck.
Degenerative joint disease starts when the facet joints of your spinal column become misaligned stressed or damaged. This misalignment and damage causes the joint capsule that surrounds the facet joint to lose fluid which allows the cartilage of the facet joint to rub painfully together. Over time the friction creates small bone spurs in and around the facet joint. Pain from degenerative joint disease can vary depending on how much damage has been done to the joint. Persistent stiffness, achiness and headaches are common. In advanced cases referral pain may occur in the upper back and shoulders.
Subluxation is the chiropractic term that describes a condition when the flow of information through the nerves is interrupted or blocked due to a misalignment of the spinal column within the spinal canal. When this occurs, many functions of the body can become compromised and painful, often leading to even more significant conditions.
Symptoms: Cervical radiculopathy causes discomfort in several referral patterns, depending on which condition is involved and at what level of the spine. Most often the last three of seven vertebrae are involved, C5, C6 and C7. Symptoms can include neck pain, stiffness, weakness or tingling. Here is a picture to show the respective referral pain patterns. The C5 nerve pattern impacts the upper back, shoulder and arms, while the C6 extends over the upper back, shoulder, arm to the first two digits of the hand. The C7 extends over the upper back, back of shoulder, top of hand and third digit. Remember in most cases only one side is affected.
Treatment: Treatment options can include chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage therapy. Your chiropractor will help determine which treatments are appropriate for your specific condition. The doctor might also order special testing such as an x-ray or MRI.
Situation: The spinal cord and spinal nerves behave like a circuit breaker or fuse box in a house. Subluxation is the chiropractic term that describes a condition when the flow of information through the nerves is interrupted or blocked due to a misalignment of the spinal cord within the spinal canal. When this occurs, many functions of the body can become compromised and painful, often leading to even more significant conditions.
Causes: The spinal column contains the most dynamic joints in the human body. No other joints . . . fingers, toes, elbows, wrists, or knees . . . have the range of motion as those within spine. But with dynamic range of motion comes the potential for damage and resulting mechanical issues.These damages can start subtly and with no symptoms at all or they can occur traumatically like with a car accident or sports-related injury.
Compromised spinal range of motion leads to wear and tear on the spine. Disease processes such as degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease start as small mechanical breakdowns in the spine. Over time the deterioration of the spine starts to produce nerve sensations such as pain.
Symptoms: Subluxations may produce clear symptoms like pain or muscle spasms . . . or may result in more subtle symptoms such as fatigue. It’s important to note that the nerves in the spinal cord control all body functions including the function of organs like your liver. That means diminished function of an organ system could actually be the result of a nerve compromise in the spine.
Treatment: Only your chiropractor is trained to identify a subluxation. Treatments start with chiropractic adjustments. Massage, acupuncture, and physical modalities may compliment the chiropractic adjustments. The key to your body’s health and well being is to free it of nerve interference caused through subluxations.
Costrovertebral Joint Sprain
Situation: Costovertebral Joint Sprain occurs when there is damage to the joints connecting your ribs to the vertebrae of your upper—or thoracic—spine. Along with the facet joints, the costovertebral joints are designed to support your body weight and allow movement like bending, twisting, lifting, and arching. Each costovertebral joint is made up of smooth cartilage which lies between the bony surfaces, cushioning the impact of one bone—your rib—on another—your vertebrae. Strong connective tissue also wraps around the bony ends, providing support to the joint. When excessive stretching or compressive forces are placed on the costovertebral joints, damage to the cartilage, misalignment of the rib head or tearing of the connective tissue surrounding the joint can occur. This injury is a known as a costovertebral joint sprain.
Causes: Costovertebral joint sprains typically occur during excessive bending, lifting, arching, or twisting movements, although they are sometimes also caused by trauma—like sports injuries or car accidents—or repetitive movements. Symptoms: Symptoms can include sudden pain in the upper back and rib while actively bending, twisting, lifting, and arching. Sometimes, however, pain and stiffness occur after the activity, often the next morning. Symptoms are generally felt on one side of the spine and rib cage, frequently with accompanying muscle spasms around the injured joint.
Treatment: Treatments options can include chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage therapy. The chiropractor will help determine what type of treatments and modalities are appropriate for you.