In my chiropractic practice, I have noticed a substantial difference in how one patient can heal much faster than another, even if they had similar injuries. This most often occurs with soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) and joint injuries suffered by people in motor vehicle accidents. For example, if I treat two different people that were of the same sex, similar age and size, both with similar injuries, and even in the same accident, why wouldn’t they heal in relatively the same time period? One of the primary reasons why there may be a difference is due the difference in the level of their physical activity before and after the accident. If one person continues to exercise after an injury and the other person does not, the active person will generally get better faster and to a greater degree.
If you are unlucky enough to be in a motor vehicle accident, generally you will suffer from varying degrees of a whiplash. The joints of your neck and upper back will be sprained and swollen. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments will be stretched and microscopic tears will likely occur. If the accident was serious, fractures should be ruled out by taking X-rays. Then, a good physical examination by your medical doctor or chiropractor should be completed. Once this is done, you should rest for a short period of time until the acute phase of the injuries has settled down slightly (the swelling starts to decrease, the severe muscle spasms begin to subside, and the person is mobile).
As soon as you feel good enough, you should get moving. I realize this goes against the old train of thought that if your neck or back hurts, don’t move it. Years ago, when someone suffered a whiplash, they were told to wear a cervical collar for six weeks to immobilize the neck. More recent research has shown that this may actually prolong the pain and suffering. New studies are showing if you stretch and maintain the strength and mobility of these areas in a controlled manner, the healing will occur faster and to a greater extent. In my office, I am able to improve and maintain the movement in the joints by doing gentle chiropractic manipulation or mobilization. I also use various soft tissue treatments to loosen the muscles.
Once the injured areas are relatively pain free and have a good range of motion, I will encourage the patient to increase the intensity of their exercise. We encourage all of the patients to continue maintaining this higher level of activity and to have the joints of the spine checked every couple weeks until I am confident everything is healed completely. This is because the healing process extends well beyond the time when the pain disappears. Scar tissue that formed in and around the injured areas must be dissolved by the body and replaced with normal tissue. As well, previously injured areas will remain more vulnerable to flare-ups for quite some time.
In closing, if you have a whiplash or other injury, see your medical doctor and chiropractor. Then, once your body is ready, get into an exercise program so that you can help your body heal as fast and as completely as possible.