Other than a stiff neck, you felt fine after your minor car accident several days ago. Now you have pain in your upper back, neck, shoulders and a splitting headache. The delay in the pain showing up is typical in a whiplash injury. Here is why your body reacted this way and how you can have it treated.
Your Body's Response to Trauma
During the accident, your head was suddenly thrown backward, then forward again. This happens so quickly that you likely don't recall the movement. Small tears occur in the muscles in your back and neck. The area becomes inflamed and holds your neck in place to prevent further injury. This was the stiff neck that you felt after the accident.
After a few days, the inflammation goes down and you begin to feel the pain from the muscle damage. Nerves traveling through the neck and into your head become irritated and you develop headaches. Now you have pain throughout your upper back, neck and shoulders. A visit to a chiropractor, like one at TLC Chiropractic, for whiplash treatment will speed the recovery of your neck muscles and lessen the pain.
Chiropractic Treatment of a Whiplash Injury
Chiropractors understand the complex relationship between the bones, muscles and nerves in your neck. Their goal in treating a whiplash is threefold:
- increase circulation in your neck and upper back,
- reduce the inflammation and stiffness in the area, and
- remove scar tissue caused by the muscle tears that slow down healing
The chiropractor uses several non-invasive techniques to achieve these goals for you.
During the accident, vertebrae in the spine can become misaligned. This puts stress on the muscles and other soft tissues around those vertebrae. This misalignment, called a subluxation, is corrected by spinal manipulation. The chiropractor moves your spine around to reposition the vertebrae back into their normal alignment. This takes the stress off of the muscles so they can heal naturally.
Active Release Technique
The chiropractor feels your neck and upper back for tense muscles. The doctor then massages these muscles in their normal direction of movement to encourage them to stretch out and relax. When scar tissue is detected in the muscles, pressure is applied in the area to break up the scars. This allows the muscles to move more freely and increases the circulation in the area.
Myosfascial Release Technique
Some muscles become so tense that they create a knot that the chiropractor can feel. The knot can cause painful muscle spasms. When a knot is detected, the chiropractor places steady pressure over the knot until the muscles relax. Once the knot relaxes, the spasms go away.
Your chiropractor may also recommend physical therapy for a few weeks while your neck is healing. Once they have relaxed the muscles in your neck and back through the other techniques, physical therapy will keep the muscles from contracting again. This will also reduce the pain in your neck and improve circulation in the area, which promotes faster healing of the injured tissues.