As a chiropractor, I obviously have seen many whiplash patients. And sooner is always better. I’ve found that the sooner I see a patient after the trauma (even the same day of the accident) that better the outcome. But not everyone seeks care after an accident.
There are multiple reasons why not seeing a chiropractor after trauma is a bad idea. The obviously one is that the damage from the trauma needs to be controlled and then the healing process needs to be guided. There are clearly long term problems that occur following improperly treated whiplash injuries. These include:
- Trigger points in the muscles of the neck
- Fatty deposits in the muscles of the neck
- Chronic neck pain that can last for years
Even if you do not have more than some minor stiffness after the accident, it is still wise to get an evaluation. This does not mean that you need extensive care, but a few visits can go a long way towards fixing any imbalance that occurred as a result of the trauma.
If someone does not seek an evaluation after trauma, it is possible that problems will creep up months later, again because of an imbalance created. This particular study lends support to this idea.
The jaw (temporomandibular joint, or TMJ) generally does not get directly injured in a car accident. However, it is very susceptible to imbalance between the muscles in the back of the neck (injured during whiplash) and the muscles that open the jaw.
24% of the patients in this small study developed jaw pain some time after the accident. Even more interesting, those who experienced low-speed accidents were more likely to suffer jaw pain. Is this because they chose NOT to get care immediately after the trauma??