3 Keys to Avoid Chronic Neck or Back Pain After a Car Accident – Tips From Whiplash Expert Dr. Ryan Browning, D.C.
Having seen hundreds of patients after car crashes there are many mistakes that people make which cause longer lasting and sometimes permanent damage to the spine from a car accident or whiplash trauma. Many patients come in shortly after a motor vehicle accident and some come in a long time after once they are aware that their chronic neck or back pain is not going away. One of my jobs as their chiropractor is to educate them on how they can get better now and stay better in the future. Here are 3 tips of things to do after any car wreck.
#1- Seek immediate treatment or an opinion. If you are in an accident and there is immediate pain, it needs to be tended to immediately. This initial pain very well may worsen in the next day or two, so the sooner it is diagnosed and treated the better. High levels of pain should be checked in the emergency room to rule out bone fractures or other trauma to the body’s vital organs or the intervertebral discs. Whether or not trauma care in the E.R. is necessary, the next step should be a specialist in whiplash. This would be specific chiropractors. All chiropractors can see a car accident patient, but you want one who is expert in this area. You want one that has post-doctorate training and certification in whiplash and auto accident trauma to be the one to examine your injuries. The higher the level of training in this area, the higher the specificity in finding and helping to resolve your problems.
#2- Start with ICE to reduce inflammation, not heat! One of the most basic rules of treatment is that ice helps decrease inflammation because it pushes the blood away from the muscles, tendons, ligaments, all the soft tissues that are trying to heal after an injury. Heat will bring blood towards the area thus making it more difficult to repair the area. When in doubt, ice! I am continually amazed how often a patient comes in after an accident and they have been told by someone to put heat on it- even from the E.R. and urgent care centers!! Try to get extra amounts of water for hydration to the muscles and extra rest as your body is working in overdrive to repair itself and will feel fatigued and run down for a while.
#3- At a minimum, get spinal x-rays to check the alignment and curvatures of the spine as well as under the radar fractures that may occur. This is necessary before undergoing any form of treatment! Just a few months ago I examined a woman after her car accident. She inquired if her son should be checked as well since he had a little bit of pain. After I agreed, she brought him in and I started with an examination and x-rays. I found a large fracture at his fifth lumbar vertebrae! If he had begun many forms of treatment without knowing about this he would have been injured worse from treatment. This case was a surprise since his levels of pain were much lower than expected with this finding. As a rule, after a car accident, at least get spinal x-rays and a complete examination performed by a car accident chiropractor that is expert in this area.