A recent patient in my clinic came in and asked me this very question just a few weeks ago following a rear-end auto accident collision. She had never been to a Chiropractor before, and as such, she was not sure what we did as Chiropractors and whether or not she was in the right place. All she knew was that she was fine one minute, and then she developed a stiff neck and searing right arm pain following the collision.
So she did what she thought she was supposed to do. Immediately following the collision she went to the hospital for evaluation. Her car was drivable from the scene so she drove to the ER and waited for about five or six hours until it was her turn to be evaluated. She was told that she didn’t need x-rays, since “nothing appeared to be broken.” She was given some anti-inflammatory medications and told to come back in 3-4 days if things didn’t resolve. She thought that the hospital experience was a total waste of time.
Naturally she began to panic when things did not resolve within a few days. So rather than return again only to wait in the ER, she decided to go to a neighborhood urgent care. This time she was seen within the hour, but also did not get much care. She was given another set of medications and told to come back again a week later if pain persists. All of this time she was leaving work early since she had a demanding job in a distribution warehouse. She did not know who to turn to or what to do for her pain. Additionally, she told me that not one of the providers in the ER or the urgent care even bothered to touch her neck!
Fortunately, the patient began reading online and discovered that Chiropractors can typically help patients with these complaints, so she scheduled an appointment. During her first visit, we took x-rays to show her the condition of her spine following the collision. While the ER was correct that there were no fractures, we were able to rule out contraindications to care (fractures, dislocations, ligament instability, etc.). The patient felt relief just seeing the x-rays for herself. She said for the first time she felt like someone was listening to her, rather than rushing her through the process and getting her back on the street.
Following the x-rays we did a complete chiropractic evaluation (which included touching her neck!), neurological evaluation, orthopedic evaluation and range of motion evaluation for all injured body parts. We explained that we needed to determine the extent of her injury so that we could document her progress back to baseline. We discussed the appropriate course of treatment for her whiplash injuries and began treating her on that visit.
The patient’s care would consist of a combination of physical therapy modalities (moist heat, electric muscle stimulation, ultrasound, intersegmental traction therapy), chiropractic manipulation/mobilization of affected vertebrae and soft tissues, and physical therapy active care exercises.
As you might imagine, progress was slow in the beginning and she often complained of pain during and after treatment. But as time went on, her pain subsided, her ranges of motion improved, and her movement patterns normalized. This patient had reached maximum medical improvement and had returned back to her pre-injury status within only eight weeks from the beginning of care. She was thrilled with the results, and we were too.
So should you see a chiropractor following an auto accident injury? We think so. We offer services to treat these injuries every day and we follow best practices in manual medicine to return all patients back to maximum medical improvement as quickly as possible. For patients who are not as lucky as the example above, we work closely with other physicians including pain management physicians, PMR specialists, and orthopedists to co-treat more complex patients. We are equipped to see new patients within 24 hours of their phone call and we are committed to delivering great quality care in a relaxed environment. Sure, some aches and pains may go away on their own without treatment, but why take that chance when you can start feeling better today?
Thanks to our friends and contributors from the Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic for their insight into treatments after a car accident.