Motor vehicle accident injuries are not always obvious immediately following an accident. People involved in accidents should be seen by a chiropractor very soon afterward to be checked for whiplash and other soft tissue and spinal disc injuries before they turn into scar tissue and range of motion issues.
If there are no obvious injuries, why should people seek medical attention immediately after being involved in an auto accident?
Dr. Kyle Robertson: This is something that I actually see all the time. Someone is involved in an accident but they don’t really have any obvious injury. Then a few days or weeks later, symptoms seem to kind of appear out of nowhere. This is because even if there’s an injury such as whiplash from that auto accident, it might feel minor, but there’s still injury that has happened in the tissue around the spine. Without treatment, the injury begins to heal, but then it heals improperly which causes scar tissue and adhesions to form in those injured tissues. Once the adhesions and scar tissue form, this causes things like range of motion loss, abnormal spinal movement and alignment. We look a few years down the line and this abnormal movement has transitioned to basically a wear and tear causing disc degeneration because of the overstretched segments of the spine. It’s very important to address these injuries even if they’re minor, just because these tissues can be remodeled right away to heal properly, which avoid these future issues.
Should auto accident victims see a chiropractor after going to the emergency room or seeing a medical doctor? What more can a chiropractor do?
Dr. Kyle Robertson: So emergency rooms are just for that, for emergencies. They rule out any major injury like fracture or head injury, which is very important because we want to make sure that everything life-threatening is okay. Typically then they’ll just send you home with some muscle relaxers or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory meds. So, it’s really important to rule out these major injuries, but equally important to follow up with a spinal and joint injury specialist such as a chiropractor or physical therapist because like we said before, addressing these injuries with chiropractic care soon after the accident will give a better opportunity for full recovery.
As a spinal joint specialist, a chiropractor is looking at mobility and function of the body as a whole as well. Typically, people injured in auto accidents are seen multiple times per week in order to make an effective change in that injury. It’s not something that’s going to be cured in one visit, but as the healing advances, changes are made to accommodate these improvements and then we progress the patient towards their individual goals.
What are the most common injuries sustained in a minor motor vehicle accident, and what treatment methods are used?
Dr. Kyle Robertson: The most common injuries that we see sustained in these motor vehicle accidents are whiplash and disc injuries, which sometimes go unnoticed right away. Whiplash is basically a sprain of the ligaments around the spine and then strain of the muscle surrounding the spine as well, so that’s neck and back. People typically think of whiplash just the neck, but it can happen in the mid and lower back as well, so you can think of it a lot like spraining your ankle. With whiplash and the neck, the head is violently forced forward and backward, which strains both the muscles and ligaments in the front and back of the neck. In most circumstances, the spinal disc injury also occurs because of these forces which can cause more serious underlying conditions such as nerve inflammation or compression, causing that numbness, tingling, possible muscle atrophy if the nerves are affected to a serious extent.
But there’s several treatment methods and steps that are important to treat auto accident injuries. X-rays are almost always taken to evaluate the condition and stability of the spine in order to properly adjust and align the segments of the spine that are involved in the injury. Also, we talked about the muscle being injured. Specific muscle work such as myofascial release techniques are important to decrease muscle spasm and trigger points and help to remodel the muscle tissue as well, or else those adhesions and scar tissue can form in that muscle, which is going to reduce range of motion and potentially cause future injury. Other treatment tools such as deep tissue laser can help to speed up the healing process. If disc injuries are found, even more advanced measures such as the non-spinal decompression can be used to help properly heal disc injuries as well more specifically.
How much time is involved in a typical chiropractic treatment plan for someone suffering whiplash or other common auto accident injuries? Should people expect to visit the chiropractor weekly or more often or less often?
Dr. Kyle Robertson: Depending on the severity of the injury, the treatment times and longevity can vary, but even with minor injuries I would say that usually it will be at least a month before we can see some good results. That is typically going to be multiple times per week. This is because injuries take time to heal and they heal in stages, so we can’t just treat a patient once a month if we’re trying to make a real change in the tissue and the injury. So, it’s critical to stay on top of the healing process because as we progress through those different treatment and healing phases, we’re going to have to progress the patient through those so they can continue to get better. It’s a process that takes some time, but for optimal recovery, it can take a little while.
Will auto insurance companies pay for medical treatments after an accident if a claim is filed?
Dr. Kyle Robertson: Yes. So even if the accident was your fault, most people think that, “Oh, I caused the accident. It was my fault. Insurance won’t help me.” That’s not true. For example, every policy, at least in the state of New Jersey where I am, requires a certain amount of injury coverage for a person to use in the case of an accident. This just doesn’t include hospital, emergency room, that sort of thing, but it also includes chiropractic coverage, physical therapy coverage, and acupuncture coverage.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Kyle Robertson at Ferraro Spine and Rehabilitation please visit www.ferrarospine.com or call 973-478-2212 to schedule an appointment.