Chiropractic Care After an Auto Accident

People should seek chiropractic care after an auto accident to correct any spinal misalignments sustained during the accident. Whiplash, sprains and strains are common auto accident injuries that can be helped with chiropractic care and co-treated with physical therapy.

If there are no obvious injuries, why should people seek medical attention immediately after being involved in an auto accident?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, seeking medical attention after an auto accident, so, most people on the line have been in a little bit of a fender bender and stuff like that. And after an accident, sometimes you’re highly adrenalized, you’re all charged up, you’re kind of in that sympathetic overdrive because there’s been a little bit of a traumatic incident, you’re in a little bit of shock, so, you’re all fired up. Usually if you talk to anyone after an accident, a lot of their symptomatology might not show up until 12 to 48 hours later. So, a lot of people will go right to the ER, they’ll get examined and they’ll be like, “all right, nothing’s broken” and go home. Then the next day they feel like they got hit by a truck literally or figuratively, and then things can start to show up.

Really the main reason when we’re looking at it is you want to be sure is everything okay? Sometimes there can be an accumulation of symptoms or it can take time for the symptoms to start to come on. So, like I said before, it could be a lag of 12 to 24 hours before any symptoms show up. So those are the reasons that people would seek medical attention after being in an auto accident. So that’s really the primary thing, make sure everything gets checked, make sure you’re okay and there’s no underlying things.

Sometimes getting checked can be the difference between life and death. There’s a very famous story they talk about Natasha Richardson where she fell on a ski hill and I think she was even wearing a helmet. She hit her head and the ski patrol said, “Hey, why don’t you come on down? We’ll get you checked out in the ski patrol office.” And she declined and it turned out that she actually hit her head and had a small concussion and a small bleed inside her head, and she actually died shortly after that. So really, it’s just about being sure and checking under the hood and making sure everything’s good after an accident like that.

Should auto accident victims see a chiropractor after going to the emergency room or seeing a medical doctor? And what would the chiropractor find that a medical facility might have missed?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: It’s not that a medical facility might have missed that, but they don’t look for vertebral subluxations. Remember, when you go to a chiropractor specifically, you’re going to get the alignment checked because what we normally see as stress, tension, poor posture, accidents, or falls will knock the bones out of alignment. When the bones don’t line up properly, that’s when they start to irritate the neural structures that they’re designed to protect. And with that irritation, that’s when problems start to ensue.

So, you want to see a chiropractor because you want to get checked to see if there were subluxations or any misalignments that came from that accident. Your medical doctor is not going to be checking that. That’s not what they’re trained in. It’s not they would miss anything. They’re just looking for different things. When you go into an ER, they want to make sure nothing’s broken and that you’re not bleeding internally. And then once they determine that you’re okay, they’re going to send you home. But then all the other care to take care of your musculoskeletal injuries and all those different things, that’s better handled by the chiropractor, just because they’re looking for different things.

What are the most common injuries sustained in a minor motor vehicle accident? And how long does it take for symptoms of these injuries to be felt?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: The most common injuries in most of these motor vehicle accidents are usually sprain strain, right? Whiplash type injuries that affect the soft tissues and when the soft tissues are injured, then they splint and tighten up. And if the muscles get super tight, they can start pulling the bones out of alignment if the actual accident didn’t produce enough force to knock those bones out of alignment.

And then as far as treating those people, we as chiropractors check the alignment. Sometimes they might be co-treating with physical therapy to work on some of the muscular components. Or some chiropractors may choose to do the muscular component in house.

It’s important to make sure that you get a proper diagnosis and you know exactly what you’re looking at, if it’s just misalignments and subluxation, or if it’s coupled with sprain, strain or torn ligaments or any of those types of things. So it is very important to make sure that you get checked.

And then the other thing you’re asking is how long does it take for these symptoms to either be felt or go away. That can be different for everyone. That depends on the individual state of health, how active they are, how flexible they are, how strong they are. All those things are really important. If you’re a generally healthy person, a significant accident might have a lesser effect on you than someone who’s unhealthy. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, which we can talk about.

How long it takes for symptoms to be felt or to go away varies but the most common things we see are the sprains, strains, concussions, misalignment, subluxations, bruises, and contusions.

Could you describe some of the chiropractor treatments used to treat these injuries?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Sure. Depending on the focus, in our office, we primarily do the chiropractic adjustments to alleviate pressure off the nerves. Once we eliminate the irritation to the nerves, things start to calm down, the muscles relax, and everything starts to get better, and the body will start to heal and get back to normal. So that’s basically what we do in our office. Sometimes if there’s spasms, we might need to do things to calm the muscles down. There might be massage work. There might be using heat or cold, which I think most people can do at home, which don’t necessarily need to be done in the chiropractic office.

There are a lot of things, but the main thing that I want to make sure that people don’t get confused is that chiropractors adjust to remove the misalignments associated with vertebral subluxation. That’s just when the vertebrae get out of alignment and that can be caused by car accidents, stress, tension, poor posture, and a host of other things. I want to be clear that the chiropractic adjustment is paramount and that is the primary service that a chiropractor does offer and should be offering.

What is involved in a typical chiropractic treatment plan following an auto accident?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: That’s a pretty good question. We kind of use this word, typical chiropractic treatment plan following an accident, but the severity, and how severe the accident is, and the speed and the amount of forces involved, that’s really what’s going to determine the treatment plan. How basically messed up is this guy, how much pain are they in? Is it multiple sites of injury? Is it just the neck or is it the neck and the lower back? So, the severity and the frequency of symptoms are all going to determine how well that patient does, and there are a couple different modes, right? Some people come in and they just want to get out of pain as quickly as possible.

So rather than actually fix the problem, they just want to patch it. Throw a little dirt and a little blacktop up over the hole and we fixed a pothole, or you can repave the road, which is more what we call corrective care. So, depending on their state of health they were in when they got into the accident and the severity of those injuries, a treatment plan from a chiropractor isn’t going to be typical. The only thing that’s typical is that you should be getting your subluxations adjusted or being adjusted to correct the misalignments that were caused by that.

And then a lot of chiropractors will use some physical therapy modalities to kind of help along with that. In our offices, we generally would rather co-treat and send them to the experts in physical therapy, and there’s physical therapists in our building and close by. So, we’ll often refer for the other components, but really be expert in our subluxation care.

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To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit or call (212) 977-7094 to schedule an appointment.

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