You are currently viewing The Domino Effect: Understanding The Long-Term Consequences Of An Injury

The Domino Effect: Understanding The Long-Term Consequences Of An Injury

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:15 mins read

Throughout life, especially in a sports setting, we commonly hear “shake it off” or “suck it up and keep going.” We might not have given this much thought but “shaking an injury off” or ignoring it can (and will) lead to further complications down the road. As an Austin chiropractor who regularly sees some of the world’s top athletes, we see long term consequences of an injury firsthand. Below we will highlight the importance early intervention has in preventing long term health complications. We also discuss why seeking nervous system chiropractic care is crucial, and distinctly different than seeking medical intervention for an injury. 

long term consequences of an injury are illustrated by a child with a scraped knee.

The Long Term consequences of an injury without treatment

We typically address an injury based on how we feel, ignoring how it may have altered the function of our body. Altered function is a new concept for many of us. It simply means there is dysfunction in an area and the body stops working in an ideal way. This could mean we stop moving correctly, or we might have tight muscles, or poor posture. This could even mean that our internal organs stop functioning in an ideal way. 

 A common example of this we see is when somebody has a “small tweak.” It could be a slip and fall at home, hitting our head on something, rolling an ankle, etc. We may not even call these things “injuries.” These examples used, and others are in fact injuries to our body. They alter the function of it, and often symptoms do not present right away. 

If symptoms are in fact present-usually pain, swelling, and muscle tightness, we tend to become hyper focused on pain relief. While this isn’t a bad thing, we completely miss the mark on the real problem at hand- restoring proper function to the affected area. 

Signs of dysfunction to look for after an injury: 

  • Abnormal or limited motion 
  • Muscle tightness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Heat/ Redness
  • Poor posture
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Feeling restless/anxious

The big takeaway here is that altered function/ dysfunction can lead to future symptoms down the road like increased risk of wear and tear in the joint, along with high risk of injury. Typically, as Austin chiropractors, we see that early intervention drastically decreases the risk of future injuries. 

Feeling vs Function: The shift we should make in care

What is pain and where does it even come from?

 Pain is a sensation that enters the brain through our nerves that signal that there is a problem. It’s the alarm system! The nerves in our body also control how we function, not just how we feel.  There are three primary branches that this information is transmitted from the brain to the body and vice versa. We can think of them as lanes or highways that go back and forth between brain and body. The first branch is the sensory branch which controls how we feel (pain, temperature, sensation). The other two branches control how we function. They are the motor branch ( movement, posture, muscle spasm, weakness, tightness, fatigue), and Autonomic (organ and glands, immunity, digestion, inflammation, detox, sleep). 

Why Pain offers only a limited view after an injury

What is interesting is that the branch that controls pain, or how we feel, only makes up a very small portion of the information highway that goes to and from the brain. This is why oftentimes pain is the last thing to show up when there is a problem going on in the body. Altered function tends to show up immediately though. This is important because we should be aware of the signs of altered function and what the long term effects are. 

An example of this could be rolling your ankle. We might experience pain for a day or two then it goes away. What we might totally miss however are the effects of what happened when we rolled the ankle. It most likely altered our movement patterns, created tight muscles in the area, and put stress on our nervous system. The combination of these things leave us more prone to long term consequences of an injury. This includes increased risk of injuries down the road as well as increasing the rate at which our body will break down. I’m not saying we are fragile and should be concerned about every little thing, but rather build a process around ensuring we don’t just ignore it. More on this below.

Real Life Stories: long term consequences of an injury

As Austin chiropractors, we see it all! After thousands of patient visits, we have noticed trends. One of the trends we see when we shake the small things off, are major problems down the road. At Lifespring Chiropractic we call this the “domino effect.” To better illustrate this, I’m going to use a real life case study from a patient who has seen us through the years. We have changed the name and certain demographic factors.

John Wayne’s Story

Relevant history findings

We gotta have a little fun with the name right? When “john” came to visit us, he came in with neck pain, poor posture, and low back tightness. He wanted help with getting back to the gym, and injury prevention also. When we dug deeper. Through our nervous system evaluation, we discovered that John happened to be in a recent fender bender that he shook off. He said that he was fine and it wasn’t an issue. It happened a few months prior. He also mentioned being rear ended when he was in a car as a kid and did not receive any kind of treatment. Spoiler alert, both of these instances create altered function of our body, regardless of how we may feel immediately after. 

Summary of findings

Upon further testing we uncovered the “domino effect” or the downstream effects of these injuries going untreated. This is another way of saying we discovered the long term consequences of an injury that went untreated. Through listening to his story, and our holistic testing, we discovered that dysfunction from two past injuries was the real issue! This showed up as altered motion (especially in the neck). It was too mobile in certain directions, and not mobile enough in others. This is a problem! Regardless of symptoms, altered function is a problem! 

 We also found a relative weakness in certain muscles that were not firing correctly, which showed up in his body as poor posture, and trouble with certain movements while working out.  John mentioned that he scheduled the appointment due to a recent flare up in the neck he experienced while sleeping. This led him to believe that his pillow or mattress was the problem. He was also convinced that age might simply be the problem, as he had just turned 30. The real 

Discovering the root cause

What we really discovered is that the problem was coming from a combination of past injuries that were not treated along with lifestyle factors that created stress and imbalance of his body’s nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The things that contributed to this included: 

  • A recent fender bender (that left him pain free at the time)
  • A fender bender years ago( also left him pain free)
  • Sitting 6 hours a day at a desk
  • High stress levels from work 
  • Poor sleep habits for a prolonged period of time

Fatigue, altered sleep (waking up in the middle of the night at 2am), poor posture, posture, low testosterone production, and digestive issues were all present. One might wonder how digestive issues or sleep could be related to a couple car accidents that were ignored. The nervous system! Remember the three branches? Stress on the nervous system affects the function of all three branches! Sometimes this occurs at seemingly random times leading us to believe that the problems are all isolated issues rather than a holistic problem connected by the nervous system. 

What to do after an injury to promote optimal healing

Hopefully by now you know not to shake it off! You might still be wondering what to do after an injury to promote optimal healing. Most medical doctors would advise on ways to feel less symptoms and completely ignore how the body is functioning- the real root of the issue. I googled “what to do after a minor injury” and it led me to a The University of Rochester Medical Center where indeed nothing about function was mentioned. As holistic Austin chiropractors who know the importance optimal function plays in longevity and future injury prevention. The absolute best thing to do beyond searching for quick pain relief, is to see a healthcare professional who focuses on optimizing function. An important concept to keep in mind here is that most providers who do this, do not accept health insurance. This is because the insurance model is built around symptom management rather than optimal function. 

We should be focused on altered function and health optimization rather than just treating symptoms with a band aid. 

Why seeing a nervous system chiropractor is important

We recommend seeing a chiropractor who takes a nervous system based approach, like we do,  due to the importance the nervous system has on the whole body, beyond symptoms. It is impacted when we have injuries (among other lifestyle habits) and thus a cascade of symptoms can appear. Classical intervention is to treat the symptoms of altered movement with exercises, or tight muscles with massage tools, or drugs to minimize pain. While these things are not wrong, they miss the real cause of the issue- nervous system dysfunction. Below is a diagram showing how the nervous system controls the things mentioned.

A chart explaining the importance of the nervous system in preventing long term consequences of an injury.

Through thousands of cases and personal stories with patients, we often hear “I wish I would have done something about this years ago.” Years of symptom management and quick fixes eventually catches up with us. This typically leaves us with less ability to do the things we love with the people we love. 

The power of immediate chiropractic care: restoring health from within

Nervous system chiropractic care focuses on restoring balance of the nervous system. As Austin chiropractors, we do this through targeted gentle chiropractic adjustments. This allows our body to heal quickly so that we can feel better quickly. More importantly, It also allows our body to optimize function including movement patterns and muscle tone. This is important in preventing long term consequences of an injury such as higher risk of future injury. 

How chiropractic care addresses the root cause of injuries

Many times shaking off an injury entails icing it, using NSAIDS to decrease pain, and simply waiting for it to feel better. Chiropractors address the root cause of an injury by evaluating the spine and nervous system. We use the word Subluxation to describe altered function in the body. It is the term used by chiropractors to describe altered motion of the spine along with the negative effects this has on the nervous system. Subluxation occurs due to many reasons but common ones include  injuries or lifestyle factors.

The Lifespring Method: A comprehensive approach 

To check for altered spinal and joint function along with imbalances in the nervous system, we use our comprehensive assessment. Our unique approach, The Lifespring Method, dives deep into the health of the nervous system, the extremities, and the ligament systems of the body. 

This entails looking at nervous system tests, regional motion, global motion, posture, muscle firing tests, along with tests that look at balance, gait, and coordination. These measures, along with information we get from your story allow us to assess the health of your nervous system, which is typically the deeper issue when talking about altered function. It will show us if there is indeed an altered function and give us a clear roadmap on how to overcome it.

The benefit in doing this is that it allows us to see exactly which areas of the body are showing signs of concern, even before symptoms may be present. We know that these areas over time will become problematic, so getting early detection can mean a wildly different outcome long term.  Optimizing our nervous system not only feels good, it also saves us time and money in the long run. 

Click here to get started with one of our amazing Austin chiropractors and prevent long term consequences of an injury at Lifespring chiropractic. We look forward to helping you optimize your health!