One common result of an auto accident is headache pain. As one can imagine, the forces that enter the neck during an even relatively low impact accident can whiplash the neck and damage the delicate tissues in the upper cervical area, just under the head. Several things can happen as a result of this injury. The forces can misalign the bones in the neck and the head itself. This will, in turn, irritate the nerves that come out of the spinal cord, pass through those joints and enervate the muscles in the upper cervical area. These irritated nerves will barrage the muscles in that area with aberrant signals, causing those muscles to go to spasm. Unfortunately this can occur even after the area has healed. The body will heal both the joints and damaged muscle tissues best as it can. Unfortunately, this entails healing the area with scar tissue. The scar tissue can entrap the nerves in that area. As result, the patient may experience chronic neck and headache pain even years after the original injury.
I see this all the time. Patients will come in right after an accident complaining of neck and headache pain. At the same time, I see patients coming in with chronic pain from an accident that may have occurred, in some cases, decades ago.
As a chiropractor, I will address the misalignments and fixations in the neck and especially the upper neck area in the case of headaches. But one area that often gets overlooked is the soft tissue of the upper cervical area. Even with perfectly aligned and moving joints in the neck, if the soft tissue is in spasm or inhibited by scar tissue, chronic pain is still likely. To this end, I will perform very specific soft tissue work along the neck and upper cervical area. By breaking up the scar tissue, I’ve seen, time and again, patients experience tremendous relief of their chronic headache pain.