Reasons to See a Chiropractor After a Car Accident

Did You Know That Chiropractic Care Can Quickly & Safely Eliminate Soft Tissue Injuries?

Being involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) is a traumatic experience that can have lasting effects on your mental and physical health. Depending on the seriousness of the crash, you may need to visit the emergency room – but when it comes to post-MVA healthcare, there is a lot that can slip through the cracks. You’ll be sent home with a clean bill of health if there is no apparent bleeding or broken bones.

Read More: Motor Vehicle Accidents & Rehabilitation – What Now?

You may be given some muscle relaxers and pain meds and be warned to take it easy for a day or two, but you may have sustained invisible injuries that are often ignored, such as whiplash, misaligned vertebrae, muscular micro-tears and even neurological damage.

Luckily, one of the best-kept secrets of the healthcare industry is that chiropractors are extraordinarily successful at treating a variety of MVA injuries. In fact, many patients first discover chiropractic care after being in a car accident. Often, as they learn more about the benefits of modern chiropractic practices and techniques, they opt to make their chiropractor part of their regular healthcare regimen.

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Common MVA injuries:

Neck pain/stiffness (whiplash)

A relatively common injury, whiplash (also known simply as neck strain) occurs following a sudden force that jerks the head and neck forward and backward, stretching or even tearing the muscles and tendons in the neck. Whiplash happens most often following a car accident but can also occur in other ways.

Whiplash is a prime example of an invisible injury – it does not show up on tests, such as MRIs, so it may not be picked up during your initial visit to the emergency room. Chiropractors are experts at identifying the little-known symptoms and signs of whiplash, which can include muscle spasms, fatigue, anxiety and even memory loss.

Headaches and dizziness

If you experience severe headaches or dizziness following a car accident, it is important to consult with your chiropractor that has concussion protocol training right away. This can be a delayed sign of a concussion, blood clot, neck injury or whiplash. Some of these injuries can have serious implications for your long-term health and can be addressed quickly and efficiently with chiropractic care.

Shoulder and arm pain

Shoulder and arm pain after a car accident can signal a torn rotator cuff or shoulder impingement, and can even be a less common sign of whiplash. Pain from a shoulder joint tear (sometimes called a labral tear) can also radiate down the arm.

It is common for scar tissue to begin building up quickly after suffering from a shoulder or arm injury, so if you experience pain when moving your arm or lifting anything, shoulder weakness/instability or limited range of arm motion, discuss this with your chiropractor as soon as possible.

Lower back pain

Car accidents can cause a variety of spinal injuries that cause discogenic pain, which is associated with the spinal discs. Your spinal discs are round pieces of cartilage between each bone that makes up the spine, cushioning them and allowing for more movement and stability.

When one or more spinal disc is damaged, the pain can be pretty intense. After an MVA, most people experience discogenic pain in the lower spine area, or the lumbar area. This can be anything from lumbar sprains, disc herniation and degenerative spinal disorder, to spinal stenosis.

Reasons to pursue chiropractic treatment after an MVA:

Treat invisible injuries

In some cases where the accident does not seem all that serious, you may not notice your injuries immediately after sustaining them. This is partially due to adrenaline and shock, but more often than not, car accidents can cause invisible injuries that do not present themselves until it’s too late.

Chiropractors have the skillset to perform a full-body evaluation, to identify and treat hidden issues that you may not even be aware of yet. Aside from the obvious injuries like broken bones and cuts, it is common to suffer ligament and muscle tears in a car accident. Your chiropractor will help reduce the pain of these tears and other invisible side-effects.

Treating whiplash/neck pain

A little-known fact that you might not be aware of is that every car accident – no matter how small – causes whiplash. The longer you wait to treat whiplash, the more difficult it will be to heal and the more problems it will cause in the long run. The trick is not to wait until you can actually feel pain. By booking a visit with your chiropractor immediately, you can prevent further pain and injury down the road.

To treat whiplash, your chiropractor will most likely use spinal manipulation to get to the root of the problem, rather than simply treating the symptoms. This is a common treatment for joint dysfunction. Your chiropractor will gently move the joint in the direction in which it is restricted. It may also involve a short, quick thrust in the same direction.

Reduced inflammation

When your body experiences trauma, it produces protein-like molecules called neuropeptides, which cause injury sites to become inflamed. Inflammation can be painful, and inflamed injuries take longer to heal. This is where your chiropractor comes in. When your spine and joints are properly aligned and your nerves function as they should, your body’s biomechanics return to normal and your body stops producing neuropeptides.

Decreased scar tissue

As soft tissue injuries heal, they develop scar tissue, which makes injuries more difficult to treat. If the spine is misaligned and you haven’t recovered your full range of motion before the scarring sets in, it can interfere with normal functioning and even lead to spinal degeneration over time.

Luckily, soft tissue injuries are a chiropractor’s bread and butter. If you catch it early, you can work together to develop a safe treatment plan that will have you feeling like your normal self with plenty of time to spare.

Restored range of motion

The stiffness and pain that can result from MVA injuries can seriously inhibit your ability to perform certain routine movements, from bending over to simply looking around. Your chiropractor will get you moving again at a safe pace that works for you, to avoid overdoing it and risking further damage. They can also prescribe gentle at-home exercises to keep you feeling limber between appointments.

Faster recovery

Soft tissue injuries, without the proper care, can literally take years to heal completely. Research has shown that more than 70 per cent of patients were still in pain six weeks following their visit to the emergency room after a car accident. Nearly half of patients continue to experience symptoms three months later, while 25 per cent remain symptomatic for up to six months.

By targeting the root of the problem rather than merely managing symptoms, your chiropractor will be able to reduce the amount of time you’ll spend recovering from your MVA and you’ll be able to resume normal activities in no time.

Insurance coverage

After suffering from an MVA, the last thing you want to worry about is money. Because chiropractors are experts in soft tissue injuries, many auto insurance policies and even workplaces offer some degree of chiropractic coverage. Some insurance packages have fee limitations, require a medical referral, or only cover a certain number of visits. Most times, during your emergency room visit and subsequent follow-ups with your family doctor, they will be happy to refer you to a chiropractor.

Less reliance on medication

Traditional medical treatment relies on pain meds. Many medications are highly addictive and cause troubling side-effects, which some find can be worse than the injuries themselves. Chiropractors use safe and natural spinal adjustments, electric muscle stimulation and rehabilitative exercises to help MVA victims return to normal quickly and effectively.

Rarely will a chiropractor prescribe pain meds – they will more likely recommend a topical ointment you can apply at home to keep the pain away between visits.


There’s a good reason they say that prevention is the best medicine. Being in an MVA can weaken your muscles, leaving you vulnerable to re-injury. Chiropractic care often involves rehabilitative exercises that improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the spine. By visiting your chiropractor regularly and following their advice, you can prevent injuring yourself again later on.

Read More: Top 10 Reasons to See a Physiotherapist


After a traumatic motor vehicle accident, the first thought is often to pursue physiotherapy. However, there are also many benefits of seeing a chiropractor after a car accident. Often, people who begin seeing a chiropractor after a car accident will continue to reap the benefits for months and years afterward.

Michael McCreight, Registered Physiotherapist

Mike is an experienced and talented physiotherapist who holds a BSc in human kinetics and an MSc in physiotherapy. He doesn't believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach and is committed to providing client-centred care, tailoring each treatment plan to each patient’s unique needs and personal goals.

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