It’s amazing how quickly a motor vehicle collision can change your life. One minute you’re just driving along, listening to your music or thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow. And the next minute, your body is reeling from the sudden impact of a car crash.

If you’ve been in a motor vehicle collision, you may have told yourself “It’s no big deal, I’ll be fine.” But it’s important not to underestimate the upheaval that a car crash can create in your life. I’ve spent a lot of my career studying automotive trauma, and I can’t impress upon you enough how serious it can be.

 Three Ways Motor Vehicle Collisions Can Upheave Your Life

Motor vehicle collisions cause obvious physical trauma. When your car collides with something else — whether it’s another car, a truck, or a stationary object like a tree or median — your body absorbs the impact of that crash. It may even bend in ways it’s not supposed to. As a result, you may suffer from pain in your neck, your back, or other parts of your body. It’s also not unusual to experience chronic headaches, dizziness, numbness, or other post-concussive symptoms.

Vehicle crashes also create upheaval in your everyday life. Dealing with your insurance company and getting your car repaired or replaced can be real hassles. You may have to miss school or work or your favorite activities. And if you’re a parent, it might be difficult to care for your children. All of these factors can cause even more stress if your time and money are already stretched thin.

Finally, vehicle crashes can cause tremendous emotional upheaval. Being in a collision is extremely stressful. Whether or not the incident was life threatening, on some level your body probably interpreted it that way. Now, you may feel anxious about getting behind the wheel of a car again because it brings up memories of the crash. It’s also common to feel anger with the other driver — or even worse, yourself — for causing the collision. But worst of all, you may be in physical pain — and fear that it will never go away. That can be enough to make you feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

As a practicing chiropractor for over 15 years specializing in whiplash and automotive trauma, I can assure you that it may be possible to heal from the damage of a motor vehicle collision…even if it’s been years.

 But before I tell you more about how chiropractic and complementary therapies can help you, even when other methods have failed, it’s important to understand exactly what happens to your body when you’re in a motor vehicle collision.

 What Motor Vehicle Collisions Do to Your Body

 Injuries sustained in collisions are complex because there are so many different kinds of tissues involved — muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves — all of which cause different kinds of pain and heal at different rates.

If you strain muscles in your neck, for example, you might feel pain there. But neck injuries can manifest as symptoms in other parts of the body too. If you stretch a nerve in your neck, it may not be your neck that actually bothers you. Instead, you could feel numbness and tingling in your arms, or you might suffer from frequent headaches. If you don’t know where the pain is truly originating, you can’t treat it effectively.

Other common injuries from collisions include arm and shoulder pain from gripping the steering wheel, foot and ankle pain from jamming on the brake, and fractured lower back vertebrae from the seatbelt holding your lower body back while your upper body jerks forward.

 Don’t Make These Common Post-Crash Mistakes

Often people assume the soreness they feel after a car wreck will go away with time, just like pain from overdoing it at the gym. But then the pain doesn’t go away and the next thing you know, it’s six months later and it’s as bad as ever.

The reason is that ordinary strain injuries are very different from collision injuries. Strain injuries can occur when you move your body in a way it was designed to move, but too often or with too much weight or resistance. Motor vehicle collisions can cause your body to move in ways it wasnever supposed to move. And that’s a real problem.

It’s very important to know this too: You can’t predict the severity of injuries from the seriousness of the crash. Don’t downplay a motor vehicle collision because you weren’t going that fast, or your friend in the car was fine.

 There are so many variables at play in a motor vehicle collision — everything from the size, speed and direction of all the vehicles involved to the size and position of the people in the vehicles — that these injuries are very unpredictable and very individual. Two people can be traveling in the same vehicle and suffer very different injuries.

Bottom line: If you are hurting, seek help, no matter how minor the incident seemed.

The Limits of Western Medicine…

In the aftermath of the crash, you’ve probably seen a lot of doctors. Maybe surgeons even saved your life. Medical doctors are highly skilled at that, and I have the highest respect for them. The only problem is that they don’t typically have an integrative approach for dealing with the after-effects of a collision. All too often patients are sent off with pain medications or muscle relaxants that only address the symptoms and not the cause of the pain. If you’re lucky, you might also get some cursory instructions for stretching exercises.

But unless your injuries are properly staged — which involves coming up with a plan that determines how to address each area that needs healing and then prioritizing the order of treatment — recovery is likely to be slow and incomplete. And without comprehensive rehabilitative exercises, your body may stay stuck in unhealthy ways of holding itself as a response to the crash.

…and Alternative Medicine

Many people turn to acupuncture after a collision. Acupuncture can be a very useful tool for managing pain and relieving tension in the body, but if there’s a structural problem, it won’t be any better than pain medications in addressing the underlying issue. That’s why acupuncture is best used in conjunction with treatment that goes right to the cause of your pain.

Massage is a similar situation. Regular massage is wonderful for breaking up tissue adhesions and bringing blood and oxygen to the affected area. But on its own, it may not free you from your pain.

There Is Hope, Even if It’s Been Years!

 It’s always better to come for treatment sooner after a motor vehicle collision rather than later. Once acute injuries turn into chronic pain, it can be more difficult to get your body to break out of that settled pattern. (It’s also easier to get proper coverage for treatment if you seek it soon after the incident.)

But here’s the important thing: it’s never too late. Even years after a collision, low-force chiropractic — combined with soft tissue therapy and rehabilitative exercises — can help set things right and relieve your pain.

 Why Chiropractors Are the Perfect Doctors to Treat Chronic Pain Stemming from Motor Vehicle Collisions

  1. We are licensed physicians, qualified to make diagnoses.
  2. We have detailed knowledge of the specific tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves, bones, and joints that are affected by collisions.
  3. We understand the relationship between manipulative therapy (i.e. therapy that manipulates the spine and joints), physical rehabilitation, and soft tissue therapy and are able to directly manage all areas of your care.
  4. We have a great success rate. Studies have found that chiropractic is effective for headaches, dizziness, neck pain, and lower back pain — in other words, some of the most common after-effects of motor vehicle collisions.[i],[ii],[iii]

It’s Normal to Be Nervous

 A lot of people are nervous about visiting a chiropractor. If you’re in significant pain, the last thing you want is to have someone touch your sore places. Maybe you’re worried treatment will hurt or cause more trauma to your joints and vertebrae, making things even worse.

The good news is that chiropractic adjustments don’t have to include cracking and popping to be effective. In my office, I can use traditional and/or gentle low-force chiropractic adjustments, which provide a gentle way to adjust the spine, skull, and internal organs. Low-force adjustments do not hurt, yet they are extremely effective. Some examples of low-force adjustments I use are cranio-sacral, visceral manipulation, counter-strain, muscle energy, myofascial release, Arthrostim, and percussor methods.

 A High Success Rate

 The Southern Oregon Sports and Spine office where I work is unique in that it is staffed by two chiropractors — Dr. Marc Heller and me (Dr. Matt Terreri) — so that if either one of us has a particularly perplexing case, we can consult with each other and benefit from each other’s knowledge.

I have 13 years of experience studying both trauma and sports medicine. I’ve made continuing education a priority so I can stay up-to-date on developments in the field. Because I’m an expert in motor vehicle collision injuries, I’ve even been asked to testify in court. My colleague, Dr. Marc Heller, is a nationally respected expert and author on tailbone, sacroiliac, and lower back pain, and has been practicing chiropractic for over 32 years. Together, we make a pretty good team.

Another thing that makes our office special is in that in addition to chiropractic services, we also provide soft tissue therapies, which allow your muscles to release their tight hold. These include massage, laser therapy, micro-current stimulation (a pain-free form of electrical healing), and Scenar electro-stim (which uses biofeedback to locate your pain hot spots and guide the current toward them). In addition, we provide you with specialized rehabilitation exercises and stretches to teach your body new, pain-free ways of holding itself.

In motor vehicle injuries proper exercises are almost always a must!

All the massage and physical therapists in our office are under one roof and in constant communication with each other, so your care is coordinated. This allows for thoughtful staging of your injuries. In other words, we can prioritize which areas of your body need attention first for optimal healing. I think this is one of the reasons most of our patients experience either partial or complete pain relief.

When you make an appointment with me at my centrally located office in beautiful Ashland, Oregon:

 I will give you a physical exam and a verbal consultation, during which I will learn about your injury and discuss your treatment goals. You’ll tell me what kinds of daily activities are difficult for you and what your rehabilitation priorities are.

  • I will stage your injuries by coming up with a plan that determines how to address each area that needs healing and prioritize the order of treatment.
  • I will perform gentle, low-force adjustments, starting with the areas most in need of attention.
  • I will use additional soft tissue therapies based on your specific needs, such as cold laser to speed healing and reduce inflammation, massage therapy to release muscle tension, and a revolutionary Russian electrical stimulator, which often markedly reduces pain patterns immediately.
  • I will work with our therapists to teach you how to take care of your body, giving you rehabilitation exercises and stretches specifically geared to your condition.

Usually, a patient will feel considerable relief after 4 to 5 treatments. Many patients experience a full recovery in as little as a few weeks. Others may require a longer treatment, but as many as 9 out of 10 patients I treat experience complete or partial resolution of their pain.

 “I had been hit by a car several years before coming to Southern Oregon Sports and Spine. Three or four years after being hit on my left side, I had to have a hip replacement. My lower back hurt constantly. Medical doctors said, “There is nothing wrong” and got very upset when I mentioned chiropractic. My daughter had been going to Dr. Heller and insisted that I try it. It took a few months, but each time I had a treatment, I could tell it was better. Marc and Matt are miracle workers. They keep me going.” —Emily

 My Guarantee to You

 No health care practitioner can guarantee 100% success with all patients. But I can guarantee I will do my best to heal your injuries. When you come into my office, I will listen carefully to you. I strive to create a nurturing, non-hurried atmosphere that will allow a meaningful dialogue to unfold. I find if I listen to patients long enough, I learn the right questions to ask, and when I ask the right questions, together we find the answers.

Please call me today at 541-482-0625 to set up your first appointment and let me help you move toward a life without pain.

In health,

Matt Terreri, DC, CCSP®

P.S. Many people put off seeking care after a motor vehicle collision hoping that things will just get better on their own. But the longer you wait to get treatment, the harder it is for your body to heal. If you want to feel better soon — possibly within just a couple weeks — I recommend you call me at (541) 482-0625 as soon as possible. You deserve to feel good again!


[i] Bronfort G et al. Effectiveness of manual therapies: The UK report. Chiropractic and Osteopathy 2010; 18(3): 3.
[ii] Dagenais S et al. NASS contemporary concepts in spine care: Spinal manipulation therapy for acute low back pain. The Spine Journal 2010; 10(10):918-40.
[iii] Bronfort G, et al. Non-invasive physical treatments for chronic/recurrent headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004; (3):CD001878. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15266458