When you picture medical care after a car accident, you may think of first responders, ambulances, and emergency rooms. In some cases, these are necessary measures, but most accidents don’t lead to these dire scenarios. Instead, car accidents often cause injuries that appear hours or days after the fact and are more like chronic pain. These problems are best treated by someone familiar with both the common mechanisms of car accidents as well as the way your body functions. Car accident chiropractors offer a range of expertise, as well as a focus on returning your body to its most functional state, and are often the best option when you’ve experienced a crash.
Just like a surgeon may specialize in the brain or the heart, and a doctor may specialize in neurology, chiropractors can specialize in different types of misalignments and concerns. The force placed on a body during a car crash, even a minor fender bender, is unlike almost anything else the body can sustain, and a car accident chiropractor has devoted time to understanding how these forces can affect the musculoskeletal system.
Car accident chiropractors go through the same training as all chiropractors, including four years of undergraduate education and four years of specialized education that includes clinical, lab, and classroom learning time. They must then be certified by a national board and maintain ongoing educational requirements throughout their career. In addition to chiropractic education, a car accident chiropractor may stay up to date with particular research around common car accident injuries or even changes to the car insurance industry.
Chiropractic care focuses on natural and holistic methods of treatment that help the body to heal itself by promoting spinal alignment. A car accident chiropractor will take this same approach to injuries sustained during a collision. These experts do not perform surgery or other invasive techniques but are trained to recognize and address a range of problems.
If first responders are called to the scene of your accident, they will perform some initial evaluations to screen for serious injuries. Some may be obvious and require immediate care, which is when you may be sent in an ambulance to the emergency room. In scenarios where this isn’t necessary, it will be up to you to seek the proper medical treatment after your accident.
Many common injuries, like whiplash or a concussion, won’t be apparent in the immediate aftermath of a crash. These types of conditions can take hours, days, or even weeks to appear or be acknowledged as a problem, once your adrenaline wears off or your body is able to recover from a shock reaction. However, it is best not to wait until you notice problems to seek care.
Because car accident chiropractors are familiar with these injuries, they are uniquely able to screen for them even when you may not be displaying symptoms. By visiting a provider as soon as possible, you may be able to get a diagnosis early and begin treatment before you notice any pain, giving you a better chance of full recovery. Insurance will also want to see you take a proactive approach to care and an earlier appointment will give you a better chance of proving the accident caused your injuries.
When it is determined you have an injury that needs treatment, you’ll search for a provider that can help you achieve a full recovery while managing pain. The goal is to return to at least the same level of functionality and quality of life, which chiropractors are uniquely suited to do. Traditional doctors often prescribe medication and rely on this to mask symptoms, which provides relief but does not address the root cause of the pain you are feeling.
The primary technique used by chiropractors is manual manipulation of the spine aimed at making sure it is properly aligned. Many things can cause the spine to be misaligned, including the force of a collision that may move vertebrae, joints, and other elements out of place. When the spine is not in alignment, the nearby nerves may be impacted, interrupting communication throughout the entire body.
Adjustments are often paired with physical therapy, which can help to strengthen the muscles and retrain the back to work properly. While this approach may take longer than a simple prescription, it allows the body to heal fully, sometimes even ending up stronger or more stable than it was before your accident occurred.
Not only do car accident chiropractors have deep familiarity with the way the body reacts to an accident, but they are also usually very knowledgeable about the processes you are following after an accident. The billing related to car insurance and medical bills is different than traditional health insurance and requires in-depth, specific documentation of your visits, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Car accident chiropractors are more likely to properly provide this information, increasing your chances of proper compensation without a lot of back and forth or legal proceedings.
They will also be able to directly tie your injuries to the circumstances of your car crash and know the right questions to ask to determine this connection. As experts in car accidents as a whole, these chiropractors can offer guidance through a process that is often stressful.
Some of the most common injuries sustained during car accidents are also the things chiropractors are most likely to treat, including whiplash. Caused by a sudden back and forth motion in the head, whiplash occurs when the tissues in the neck and shoulders are stretched beyond their normal capacity and strain or tear. This can result in pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, which may impact the upper spine. By making sure the spine is stable and aligned, chiropractors can make sure tissues are able to heal properly and in the right position while addressing pain and mobility in the upper body.
Whiplash and similar injuries are often accompanied by inflammation and micro-tears which can lead to a build-up of scar tissue in the impacted area, which can be improved by chiropractic care. Other injuries that can be addressed include back, shoulder, or neck pain, blurred vision, headaches, hip pain, knee pain, tingling or numbness in the limbs, and arm pain.
If you haven’t been to a chiropractor before, you may be uncertain about what to expect at your first visit. But the process of getting care is simple and, like chiropractic treatment, gentle.
Your chiropractor will start by discussing your accident, medical history, and any symptoms you may have with you. This is often enough for them to make an initial guess at a diagnosis and understand a path forward, though they will usually also perform a physical examination of your spine. If severe injuries need to be ruled out or your chiropractor wants visual information, they will often send you for diagnostic imaging like an x-ray or MRI, though this is not always necessary.
With this understanding of your needs, car accident chiropractors will develop a treatment plan that includes the type and frequency of treatment recommended as well as a defined goal for your recovery. The plan may change over time as your body heals but will prepare you for the road ahead and help align your plans for recovery.