"I thought it would go away!" That is one of the most common statements I hear from someone in severe pain when they come in about a month after an injury or onset of pain without cause. Sadly if the patient would have presented as soon as the pain came on or the injury happended I would probably be saying goodbye to the patient and not hello.
Why is early care important and in most cases necessary. Unfortunatley when most people injury their back from a whiplash injury, lifting injury or just from waking up in pain, they tend to rest the area, not use and not move it. They may take some ibuprofen or Vicodin and then use some heat. What happens over the time they rest is the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the area become stiff and shorten. This limits range of motion of the injured area and increses pain. Also the inflammation from the injury, be it a whiplash or lifting injury, pools up in the area without movement. This will create more tissue distruction and stimulate the pain nerves in the region, resulting in more pain and less range of motion.
Over time what I see is patients come in that are not sleeping, can't walk well or move their neck and have developed pain in other areas of the body that they did not even injur in the first place. All due to lack of undertanding of how we heal and lack of movement.
Spinal injurys that are not due to fractures or dislocations need movement. If you present the day of so after your injury and it is determined there is not a fracture of dislocatoin of the spine via X-ray or MRI you will recevie instructions on how to move, stretch, lift, exercise, sleep and ice. This will get you moving and help avoid the injury ruling your life and effecting other areas of your body. Adjustments to the spine are very important to have right away also. Again, get the injured area moving, increase motion of the joint, decrease inflammation and stimulate the nerves that will decrease pain. Sometimes the exact injured area may not be able to be adjusted, but adjusting the surrounding areas will also help.
Most injuries take about four to six weeks to fully heal. Unfortunately when I see someone start care four weeks after their injruy they have healed improperly and will take longer to help. If you have been injured recently do not wait for care. Get the injured area checked out soon, obtain the appropriate recommendations that will get you back to your life as soon as possible with the least amount of pain.