Days after a minor car accident, you may begin to have severe headaches. You didn't notice anything unusual at the time of accident except for a stiff neck. Headaches and a stiff neck are typical symptoms of a whiplash injury and are something that an auto accident chiropractor is trained to treat. Here is what you need to know about this pain and how your local chiropractor can relieve those headaches.
The Delayed Pain is a Self-Defense Mechanism
During even a minor car accident, your head can be thrown forward violently, then backward again. This trauma causes tiny tears in the muscles and other soft tissues in your upper back and neck. The area becomes inflamed, swelling up to cushion that area of the body from further damage. The result is the feeling of a stiff neck.
As the swelling goes down, you'll begin to feel the pain from the torn tissue. You can have pain in your upper back, shoulders, neck and extending up into the head, which all manifest as the severe headaches. The muscles in the area will be tense, increasing the pain and creating more stiffness.
Treating Whiplash Injuries
Chiropractors are taught extensively about the anatomy of the neck and spine. They are skilled in non-invasive techniques to help remove the pain and stiffness by:
- increasing blood circulation in the area
- reducing inflammation
- removing scar tissue caused by the injury
- relaxing tense muscles
Your chiropractor will evaluate the extent of the damage to the soft tissues and recommend one or more treatment options.
The chiropractor will check to see if the vertebrae in your neck became misaligned as a result of the accident. Often occurring between the first and second vertebrae in your neck, a subluxation is a tiny change in the alignment of the vertebrae that irritates the muscles and nerves in the area. The chiropractor will move your head and neck around into specific positions to return the two bones back into their proper positions.
Active Release Technique (ART)
By gently massaging the tight muscles in the direction that they normally move, tense muscles relax, circulation improves and inflammation is relieved. As the muscle tension goes away, so does the irritation of the nerves which causes your headaches. The doctor can also feel scar tissue that has developed in the muscles. By placing pressure on these areas during the massage, scar tissue breaks up and is absorbed by the body.
Myofascial Release Technique (MRT)
As the chiropractor feels along the tense muscles, they may find muscles so tense that they have created a knot under the skin. These knots may be the source of painful muscle spasms. When identified, the chiropractor places pressure directly on the knot with their knuckles or a special tool. The pressure causes the muscles to relax and the pain and spasms to go away.
The chiropractor may recommend a series of physical therapy sessions to prevent these relaxed muscles from becoming tense again. Hot and cold packs may be used on your neck and upper back to reduce inflammation. Range of motion exercises keep the muscles stretched out to reduce any neck stiffness and pain. The physical therapy helps to prevent pain and stiffness in the area as the tissues heal naturally.
If you're experiencing headaches or a stiff neck following an auto accident, don't hesitate to contact a company like Citrus Chiropractic Group to get back to feeling good.