After a car accident, there is a range of injuries you will commonly be checked for, including whiplash. As one of the most common injuries from a collision, a car accident doctor will always have whiplash in mind during initial evaluations. During this diagnostic process, they may ask you about past injuries as well- this is because scar tissue can be a concern. Many injuries that occur in the muscles and ligaments can become cumulative due to scar tissue, altering your treatment plan based on its presence. If you are told scar tissue may be an issue for you, here is what you need to know.
What Is Scar Tissue?
It is first important to understand the differences in tissues in the muscles and ligaments. Muscles attach one bone to another with the purpose of moving bones towards each other. Ligaments also attach bones, but their purpose is to hold bones in place and act as a counterforce to the movement brought on by muscles. The combination of these tissues is what allows for normal movements of the body.
Muscles and ligaments have a similar structure, with both made of a large number of organized fibers that contain “grain”. You can imagine you’re holding a handful of straws, all organized neatly side by side and pointing in the same direction. This is similar to how muscles and ligament fibers are organized.
When these fibers tear during a whiplash injury, scar tissue begins to form in order to fill those gaps. Just like a cut is healed by the skin regrowing, a tear is healed in this way. However, scar tissue is unorganized when it forms, making it noticeably different than the natural grain of muscles and ligaments. The structure of scar tissue is more like dropping the straws on the floor and seeing where they scatter.
Over time, scar tissue will shrink. This is what may cause an old cut to become a raised scar. When scar tissue forms internally, it can cause misalignments throughout the body. For example, imagine injuring a vertebra in your spine. When unharmed, the vertebrae should be identical on the left and right side, but if scar tissue forms on one side, it can create tension on the bone and cause an uneven positioning. The uneven tension could lead to problems like pain, tension, or even nerve pressure. Untreated, these problems will not only continue, but also lead to the body deforming the bones over time to reinforce the new positioning.
Preventing Scar Tissue
So what do you do if you’ve been in an accident? Your muscles and ligaments do need to heal, but you want to avoid scar tissue. A car accident doctor can help ensure that as this scar tissue forms, it is organized. Think about a blanket knit with yarn- it appears to have a lot of crisscrossed strands that travel in opposite directions. Often, if you stretch the blanket out, you will begin to see straight lines. Scar tissue works similarly.
When a car accident doctor performs a chiropractic adjustment to an area with scar tissue, that tissue is stretched and smoothed out to better match the structure of the original muscle or ligament tissue. This can lead to less tension and pain in the area. As the scar tissue shrinks back, you may notice pain and stiffness return, which is why regular visits to the chiropractor for maintenance can be important. Most often, each adjustment leads to a shorter period of pain and stiffness until the tissue expands and you experience relief.
Seek Chiropractic Care Promptly
Scar tissue is easiest to organize when it is newly formed, so it is important to seek this care quickly after a car accident injury has occurred. Not only will this prevent pain now, but it can help the original tissue form better so that you need less upkeep in the future. The car accident doctors at AICA Orthopedics are highly knowledgeable about scar tissue as it relates to whiplash and other similar car accident injuries and will be able to help develop a customized treatment plan.
It is important to share with your doctor any past injuries to the affected area, as old scar tissue can complicate healing. Scar tissue may build on itself and make treatment in the future more difficult when it has not been addressed in the past. Share any history with your doctor at AICA Orthopedics to ensure you are getting the most targeted care possible.