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Chiropractic Therapy for Headaches Following a Car Accident

In 2020, over 2.1 million visits were made to the emergency department for injuries following motor vehicle crashes. As a result of such accidents, many patients may suffer from whiplash or neck and head injuries which can cause concussion or painful and debilitating headaches to ensue.

People can experience different types of headaches following a car accident. A blow to the head and neck can result in a post-traumatic headache which usually arises hours or days after a collision.  In some cases, a delayed-onset post-traumatic headache can manifest even later. A pinched nerve fracture, muscle strain or whiplash can also lead to headaches.

If you have been involved in a car accident and are experiencing headaches or migraines, aside from receiving medical attention from your doctor you may also benefit from chiropractic therapy to relieve your symptoms. This article will look at some of the benefits of receiving chiropractic treatment for common types of headaches following a car accident.

What Is Chiropractic Therapy?

What Is Chiropractic Therapy?
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Commonly associated with spinal adjustments and sports injuries, chiropractic treatment also has applications when it comes to proper cognitive function and addressing neurological issues. In addition to improving flexibility in the joints and muscles and overall mobility, chiropractic treatments can help relieve headaches and migraines such as tension headaches and post-concussion syndrome (PCS).

Practitioners use hands-on techniques to manipulate, adjust and correctly align the spine, joints and muscles in the body to restore or improve motion and overall functioning. Chiropractic adjustments involve sudden and controlled force to the joints to correct misalignments.

This can be an effective treatment if you are suffering from headaches or migraines following a car accident. By working with your musculoskeletal system a chiropractor can help to align your spine and relieve any strain on your nervous system. This will allow blood to flow around your body more freely, helping to reduce any tension, inflammation or irritation that can all contribute to pain in or around your head. Chiropractic therapy can often help to treat the following types of headaches:

Tension Headaches

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Tension headaches are caused when the muscles of the head, neck or upper back contract during an auto accident as a result of a sudden jolt to the head or neck. This can lead to tearing or injury of the soft tissue in this area, causing the muscles to spasm or strain.

Most tension headaches are caused by subluxations in the neck and upper back. Chiropractic treatment which involves spinal adjustments can help to relieve any stiffness or spasms in the muscles in these areas which can correct subluxations and allow for greater freedom of movement. Other techniques such as massage, stretching and relaxation may also be used to assist recovery.

Migraine Headaches

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According to the American Migraine Research Foundation migraines are the sixth most disabling illness in the world, and affects 37 million people in the U.S. These may follow a car accident in the hours, day or even weeks to come. Migraine pain may also be accompanied with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to sound or light.

A chiropractor can treat migraines through adjustments to the spine which will help to alleviate stress on the nervous system and by focusing on the head, neck and back, they can correct any subluxations that may be causing pain. Neuromuscular massage or trigger point therapy are other techniques a chiropractor can use and involve the massaging of muscles and fascia to release any trigger points or painful or tense areas in the back, neck, shoulders and head. This can reduce pressure in the muscles and nerves which are causing the migraine.

Cluster Headaches

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These headaches are relatively short, typically lasting 15 minutes to a few hours, but are one of the most painful types of headache. Cluster headaches usually appear on one side of the head, around the eye or temples and can occur everyday, often several times, or periodically.

Cluster headaches are thought to involve the dilation of the blood vessels in the eye area, causing inflammation and pressure in the head.  Through spinal manipulation, chiropractic adjustments can help to alleviate the stress on the nervous system. With greater relaxation, the muscles in the spine can also be relieved of any rigidity and tightness helping to alleviate the symptoms experienced from cluster headaches.

Cervicogenic Headaches

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Whiplash from a car accident can often cause cervicogenic headaches. These headaches are triggered by an injury to the neck or cervical spine and tend to start at the back of the head before spreading to the front. The symptoms are usually on one side of the body only and can include pain in the shoulder or arm.

Chiropractic treatment can be a safe and effective way to treat cervicogenic headaches following a car accident. A study published in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders journal found that chiropractic adjustments were far more effective in the treatment of cervicogenic headaches compared to standard therapeutic care. 

Post-Concussion Syndrome

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Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is usually the result of brain trauma caused by an injury to the head and occurs when the symptoms of a concussion last long after the expected recovery period following an injury. PCS headaches can vary, but are often similar to migraines or tension headaches, and often follow whiplash or a neck injury sustained in a car accident. PCS can affect a person’s mood, sleep and cognitive abilities and can lead to depression, anxiety or irritability.

PCS can cause the muscles in the neck to tighten or loosen, resulting in instability which can put strain on the vertebrae in the neck, and also cause visionary or vestibular issues. Chiropractic treatment can benefit people with PCS through spinal adjustments to the C1 and C2 vertebrae which can ease pain and relieve tension in affected areas, helping to alleviate symptoms. This is usually a complementary therapy performed alongside other medical treatments.

As this article has outlined, chiropractic therapy can help to alleviate many different types of headaches that can manifest following a car accident. If you are suffering from such headaches, it can be beneficial to speak to a chiropractor to explore your treatment options.

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