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How Soon Should You See a Chiropractor After a Car Accident?

How Soon Should You See a Chiropractor After a Car Accident

Over 2.1 million emergency department visits were made in the U.S. for motor vehicle-related injuries in 2020. The injuries sustained vary in severity and range from cuts and scrapes to internal bleeding. It is also common for drivers or passengers to suffer back pain following a car accident due to the force of impact from a collision, which can cause the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back to overstretch or tear. Some of the most common causes of back pain following a car accident include the following:

  • Whiplash
  • Spinal disc injury
  • Sprains and strains
  • Facet joint injury
  • Lumbar spine or thoracic vertebrae fractures
  • Spondylolisthesis 

If you have been in a car accident, you may be wondering whether you need to see a chiropractor and if so, how soon to do this following your accident. Read on for more information.

When to Consult a Chiropractor

Ideally, you should consult a chiropractor within 72 hours of your accident. Many people make the mistake of ignoring pain or lingering symptoms following an accident which can cause injuries to exacerbate leading to degenerative issues and chronic pain in the future, if left untreated.

Often people do not feel any pain or discomfort in the hours or days following a car accident. However, physical symptoms such as dizziness, muscle stiffness, and back, neck and shoulder pain can manifest later.  A chiropractic assessment will ensure any injuries are identified early on enabling you to receive the correct care and treatment for your injuries.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s important to monitor your health for any signs and physical symptoms you may experience following a car accident. The following symptoms could indicate a serious injury and the need for chiropractic attention:

1. Physical Pain

Injuries such as whiplash can cause neck, back and joint pain and can also be an indication of a more serious issue. Bruises and contusions sustained after a car accident can also cause soft tissue injuries, which can lead to muscle spasms, tightness and back pain. If left untreated, this could impair normal movement and result in the worsening of pain.

2. Stiffness

Some people will experience stiffness in their bodies after a car accident. This is particularly common in the upper body such as the upper back, head, neck, shoulders and arms and can be a sign of underlying problems which may cause pain and increasing discomfort over time. A chiropractic examination can identify and treat any damage and help you to restore your body’s normal range of motion.

3. Nerve Injuries

Nerve and spine injuries are common symptoms following car accidents and can cause spinal disc misalignment, pinched or compressed nerves as well as numbness or tingling. This is most likely a result of neck and back injuries and can also cause conditions like sciatica to develop due to a herniated or bulging disc that compresses nerves in the lower back. Sciatica can also cause weakness or numbness in the lower back, buttock and down the leg.

4. Headaches

Post-traumatic headaches are commonly caused by a blow to the head and neck and typically appear hours or days after an accident, however, in some cases, this may be later and is known as delayed-onset post-traumatic headache. Headaches can also arise from a fracture, pinched nerve, muscle strain, whiplash or concussion. A concussion headache indicates an injury to the brain caused by a sudden jolt or trauma to the head and is often accompanied with dizziness, nausea, confusion, blurred vision or memory loss. A concussion is considered a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can cause brain damage, and should be treated immediately. 

5. Sleep Disturbance

Sleep disturbance and insomnia can often follow a car accident. This may be the result of the physical discomfort from any injuries as well as the emotional and psychological effects of the incident. Some individuals suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after their accident and experience traumatic and recurrent flashbacks of the event. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms following a car accident it is important to seek medical and chiropractic attention immediately.

The Importance of Timing

There are a number of reasons why it is important to seek chiropractic treatment  soon after a car accident. These include the following:

  • Correct Diagnosis of Injuries: People do not always recognize the full extent of their injuries following a car accident, and may ignore symptoms that will cause them increased pain and physical problems later on. Undergoing a chiropractic examination soon after an accident will help to identify and correctly diagnose any injuries sustained.
  • Quicker Recovery: The sooner your injuries can be diagnosed the sooner you can be put on the correct treatment plan enabling a quicker recovery to full health. By consulting a chiropractor sooner rather than later you will improve your chances of healing your injuries before they worsen.
  • Legal Documentation: Many victims of car accidents choose to pursue a personal injury claim to recover compensation for the injuries they have sustained. In some cases, documentation is required evidencing the injuries as well as the fact that medical treatment was sought within a reasonable amount of time. The 72-hour threshold will generally meet the requirements of receiving treatment within a reasonable amount of time. After this time, the defendant’s insurance company may be entitled to deny your claim and your right to receive the compensation you deserve.
  • Insurance Claims: Some auto insurance policies provide coverage for chiropractic treatment following a car accident. It is advisable to receive such treatment as soon as possible in order to strengthen your claim. Failure to do this may result in your insurance company denying your claim on the basis that your injuries were caused or grew worse due to other factors. Getting a chiropractic assessment promptly after your accident will not only ensure you receive the necessary care you need for any injuries but will also help ensure your claim gets paid.

As this article has shown, it is important to seek chiropractic treatment soon after your car accident to ensure you receive the treatment you need to prevent further injury and to ensure any claims you pursue are dealt with to your advantage.