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As a chiropractor, I’ve had patients that have fallen from decks, stairs, ladders, and much more.
Some come in the next day for an evaluation. Others wait a few weeks (or months) to come seek help with any post-injury pain.
Today, I’m going to help you determine the best treatment after a fall:
- When you should go to the ER
- When it’s okay to wait things out
- When to see a chiropractor
Pain & Bruising After Falling
I want to share a story about a woman who fell backward off a deck and landed on the ground. The deck was about 4 feet high — and with a slight misstep backward, she began to fall with no time to correct herself and stop the fall.
She landed on her back. Shocked at what just happened, she lies there for a minute processing the fall and assessing whether or not she was ok. She did not hit her head, she can move her legs and arms, and she doesn’t feel like anything is broken.
She does determine her back and butt are feeling pretty sore and it is likely there is going to be some nasty bruising. After catching her breath, she stands up and walks back up the deck stairs to go inside, apply some ice, and relax after the ordeal.
After a few days, she is still feeling sore and achy from falling. Bruises have developed. But there is no significant or debilitating pain — even though she does need to be careful with certain movements.
About 3 weeks later, she is feeling mostly ok and has recovered from the fall, but things don’t feel 100% right.
So, what does she do?
- Should she have gone to the ER right away after the fall to make sure her spine and back were ok?
- Did she make the right decision to skip the ER and try to heal on her own?
- Could she have benefited from going to a chiropractor soon after falling?
ER vs. Chiropractor For Post Fall Pain
Although every person is different and it depends on the severity of your fall and injury, it’s not necessary to rush to the ER in every circumstance.
Falls are extremely common. In fact, there are 37.3 million falls every year that are severe enough to require some degree of medical attention.
Seek medical attention if…
If you fall and hit your head, experience very intense pain, or something just does not feel right and leaves you worried immediately, then you should seek medical attention right away. Spine and head injuries are serious and should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Feel free to wait it out if…
If you fall and you don’t hit you head hard or have any serious or debilitating pain right away, then it’s possible you do not need to rush yourself to the emergency room. You should check in with your body after an injury and evaluate how you’re feeling honestly. If you can sense that you’ve hurt yourself, but nothing feels like a serious problem, waiting it out a few days and keeping a close eye on any symptoms generally does the trick.
Why Some Falls Require Medical Attention
It’s always wise to err on the side of caution and seek professional help and advice for any pain you are having after an injury. That way, you can make sure there is nothing more serious going on. Or, at the very least, you can seek relief from the pain and discomfort you are feeling.
When you fall or get injured in some other way, your body gets impacted — either mildly or severely. Your joints, ligaments, bones, and muscles are all affected.
When you take a fall and land directly on your back, these tend to be more serious — because your spine is affected the most, and spine health is essential to your overall health.
Falling on your back can cause slipped discs, which is extremely painful and can cause a lot of everyday pain. Symptoms of a slipped disc include:
- Numbness and pain in one side of the body
- Pain in arms and legs
- Sudden muscle weakness
- Pain worse at night
- Pain worse when moving around, standing, and sitting
- Pain when walking, even short distances
- Aching, burning, or tingling in the affected area
When To See A Chiropractor After Falling
There is no clear-cut answer to this question since all cases are unique — but there are some general rules of thumb you can go by as guide for when to see a chiropractor.
For most people, the first few days after the fall will be the worst. You will have pain, be sore, and it may be hard to stay comfortable throughout the day. When this is happening, you will probably want to stay home, take it easy, and see if your pain gets better in the next few days.
If your pain does not go away in a few days, this is generally the point you will want to book an appointment with a chiropractor. (Again, you should only wait to seek medical attention if your injuries are mild and not severe!)
Tell the chiropractor about the fall, what pain you are feeling, and where it hurts. From there, your chiropractor will do an evaluation and determine what issues there are and if they think anything more serious is going on.
If it is determined there are no severe issues or injuries, your chiropractor will do a series of manual manipulations, light massage therapy, or even stretching. Your chiropractor can also tell if any bones are dislocated and fix the dislocation, as seen here:
How Long Should You See A Chiropractor After A Fall?
After an injury or fall, the number of chiropractic appointments you need will vary. It depends on the severity of your injury, how much pain you are in at the time, and how long the pain lasts.
In my experience, some patients can benefit from adjustments on a weekly basis, while others only need to come into the office once a month or less. Sometimes it’s advised that you only need to come in when you feel like you need an adjustment — if you have mostly healed from your fall.
Many of my patients and potential patients also are not aware they can see a chiropractor without insurance. You always have the option to pay out-of-pocket for your visits.
The Bottom Line
There is no single, one best treatment after a fall.
Every fall is different and will require slightly different treatments (and length of treatments) and dictate whether you should see a medical doctor or chiropractor after the injury.
The best thing you can do is listen closely to your body — and when something just does not feel quite right, seek medical advice from a healthcare professional.
Never been to a chiropractor before?… Here’s what you can expect during your first visit to a chiropractor.
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Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. When he’s not working, Dr. Wells can be found coaching kids’ soccer, practicing yoga, and doing weight training.
Professionally, I pursued my Masters Degree in Family Therapy at Texas Tech — where I obtained invaluable expertise and experience helping people with a wide variety of physical and emotional health issues. Personally, I think it's useful when people realize that they're not the only one going through a difficult time. So any time that I think my personal health experiences would be helpful to someone else going through the same thing, I will share my story here. With health issues that I've personally experienced (like Endometriosis, Lyme Disease, Hysterectomy, Skin Cancer, Ganglion Cysts, Autism, and other topics that very few people enjoy talking about) and health products that I've found beneficial (like sleep aids, essential oils, and medications)… I do my best to provide my own raw and honest firsthand experiences that I think others would appreciate hearing about and (hopefully) find helpful. I'm grateful that I have a number of friends who have also been willing to share their very personal stories here — regarding their own physical and emotional health. When I'm not writing about health topics, you will find me sharing Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).