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Should I See a Chiropractor Immediately After a Car Accident?

Why should I visit a chiropractor immediately after an accident? Or how soon should I visit a chiropractor after an auto accident?

Having any injuries from a motor vehicle accident (MVA) assessed immediately helps to create a baseline for insurance and health purposes.  Anywhere from the day of the accident to within two weeks is a reasonable timeframe to be assessed. Sometimes we see symptoms pop up a few weeks after the MVA – problems that the patient has never had before. Chiropractors assess the musculoskeletal and neurologic components thoroughly to establish the extent of the injury, which makes both the insurance claim process and your subsequent treatment easier.  Treatment soon after an MVA helps jump-start the process of healing the tissues that were damaged in the accident. The faster you start treatment, the faster the road to recovery.

Should I come in even if I don’t have any pain?

Yes, absolutely. Typically, your visit will be covered by Personal Injury Insurance (PIP), and it is always in your best interest to know if you have injuries that exist in pain (easier to identify), or damages that can be provoked but are less or non-painful.  Remember, many injuries/problems that people have started growing from a place that is non-painful, or dysfunctional, and develop into something worse. Be proactive, get an assessment and make sure you are on the right track to healing!

I visited my general practitioner, and he/she prescribed pain meds. Should I try that first or do some combination of treatment?

In the first 7-14 days after an injury, you will see acute inflammation, along with outward signs like bruising, in some cases, or inward signs like achiness, difficulty moving, headaches, global pain, and many others.  Pain meds and/or muscle relaxers can help make you more comfortable for that window of time.  However, I’ve found that once you are past the first 14 days or so, getting off the meds enables you to feel and understand your REAL pain levels, and how to act accordingly.  Chiropractic and massage help significantly in the reduction of pain during the first month after an MVA, and from that point onward.

What are some common and not so common symptoms of whiplash?

Sprain/strain injuries to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia are by far the most common injuries from MVA’s, sometimes referred to generally as “whiplash.”  These manifest as achiness, pain, stiffness, tightness, loss of mobility, and/or loss of function of daily activities. They all can inhibit your ability to function even moderately on a regular basis, and should be addressed as soon as possible to help you regain your quality of life and function.

Less common injuries depend on the level of severity of the MVA.  Disc herniations, torn ligaments, broken bones, etc. are uncommon, but can and do happen.  

How long does chiropractic treatment take for auto accident pain and discomfort? Put simply, when will I get better?

The question “how long will it be until I feel all better?” is answered by “it depends,” how “bad” the MVA was, and how your body absorbed the energy from the MVA.  In general, I shoot for patients to be feeling better in one month, with full resolution of symptoms in 3-6 months. There have been a few times care has gone on longer, but we try hard to get patients to be proactive with their care.  That means that once the acute and sharp pain has been alleviated, we start recommending exercises, activities, and changes in everyday behavior to start getting you back to daily life. I feel that one of the biggest “missed” components of post-accident care is the active and directed exercises and modifications to daily life that make the long-term difference in the recovery process.