It is possible to have pain today from an accident from a while back. But let’s look at how the neck got injured and why a trauma from years earlier can produce symptoms today.
Even in more moderate injuries, symptoms rarely come on the day of the injury. When symptoms do occur immediately, this is a sign that the injury to the neck was more severe.
In most accidents, we initially feel a bit shaken up and shocked more than anything else. If a car accident, the vehicle has substantial damage and can completely occupy our thoughts. How are we going to drive to work the next day? We may not think to see a doctor immediately because a more pressing concern is to get the car into the shop and arrange for a rental.
If a pain in the neck begins, we take a few pain pills such as ibuprofen and the pain seems much better, even cured. But whiplash is much less straightforward than a simple tight muscle from over exertion.
The whiplash trauma causes the neck bones to displace from the stretched and damaged ligaments and discs. Over months the bones gradually creep further into the direction of the damaged ligaments. Since gravity is working all of the time, the tendency over time is for the misalignments to get worse. Once a critical threshold is reached, the nerves become irritated and pain develops.
An initial small problem has now become significantly worse because the neck has adapted to this abnormal position. The scar formation that occurs after injury is now holding the neck in an abnormal position.
When injury occurs we may adapt or compensate to the abnormal position. But over time the limits to this compensation are passed, producing dysfunction and often pain too. Because of the scar tissue that develops after injury, the spine may not move normally. To compensate for this limited motion at some joints, others have to take up the slack. These joints then become hyper-mobile, producing abnormal function to the nerves and spinal cord. The hyper-mobility is produced by stretched-out ligaments. As months, and even years pass, the stretched ligaments become even more stretched due to the effects of gravity and the movements of our body in every day life. The athlete may notice these changes right away because their physical performance is something they are very accustomed to and rely upon. In someone with a more sedentary life-style, the neck pain, stiffness, or headaches may come on months or even years after the injury.
Waiting however for the pain is not the answer. Finding help right after the injury is the solution.
At Snyder Family Chiropractic, we are experts in the detection and correction of the injuries sustained from traumatic injuries such as a fall or car accident.