According to information provided by the Association for Safe International Road Travel, up to 4.4 million people sustain non-fatal injuries in car accidents in the United States every year, resulting in more than $380 million in medical costs. Most commonly, non-fatal injuries occur in the form of neck or back pain. People who suffer these types of injuries should see a car accident doctor right away.
Left untreated, neck and back injuries can cause lifelong pain that leads to an inability to work, a lack of quality of life, or worse. Understanding the types of injuries you may receive after an accident and how to treat them is often helpful in maintaining your quality of life.
There are many types of injuries that your back or neck may sustain in a car accident. These injuries all have their own set of symptoms, often present differently from person to person, and can lead to serious issues if left untreated.
One of the most common reasons people see a neck and back pain doctor for neck pain treatment after a car accident is whiplash. Typically, it occurs when one car rear-ends another one, such as not stopping fast enough at a red light. When someone hits you from behind, the force jerks your body forward. Your seatbelt catches the rest of your body from continuing forward, but it won’t stop your neck from moving. Instead, your spine stops it by snapping your head back into its proper position.
Because the force and speed of the accident are practically instant, the tendons, neck muscles, and cervical facet joints that connect the vertebrae receive the most injury. Common signs of whiplash include a stiff neck, neck and shoulder pain, blurry vision, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. Some people also experience ringing in the ears or problems concentrating.
Sprains and strains of the lumbar spine are other common injuries someone receives in a car accident. The impact of an accident causes a person’s tendons, muscles, and ligaments of the lower back to stretch too far and eventually tear. Typically, someone who suffers a lumbar sprain will notice muscle tightness or spasms.
Pain from this type of injury may not occur immediately. If you notice pain in the hours or days after the accident but you can’t quite pinpoint it, it may be due to a lumbar strain. This type of injury is often inconclusive on an x-ray, so a car accident doctor will diagnose it via a clinical evaluation most of the time.
Did you know that your body has its own shock absorbers? The vertebrae in your spine have soft cushions known as vertebral discs that protect them from bumping against each other or the nerve roots and causing you pain. When sudden impact abruptly pushes the vertebral discs out of place, herniation occurs. Although whiplash is the most common form of herniated discs, the impact can knock them out of alignment at any point along your spine.
If you have pain in the middle of your back after a car accident, it is likely due to a herniated disc. Pain may occur right away or may not present itself until hours or days after your accident. Herniated discs appear on x-rays and MRI scans, but your doctor may also simply use a clinical evaluation to diagnose the problem.
Sometimes, your neck or back won’t hurt right after your car accident. Other times, you may not realize the severity of the injury because you are able to “power through it.” These are reasons why it is so important to see a doctor for back and neck pain treatment as soon as you feel any pain at all. When left untreated, a back injury can turn into something called spinal stenosis.
A progressive disease that worsens over time, spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal cord narrows, creating pressure on the vertebrae, often in the cervical spine region, and forcing them out of position. In turn, it pinches the nerves in the spinal cord’s channel, most often creating pain in the lumbar or neck area. If you have spinal stenosis of the neck, you may feel tingling in the hands or fingers, have trouble lifting light objects, or feel stiffness in your neck. If you have it in the lumbar region, you may notice tingling in the toes or legs, stiffness in the lower back, or sore hips.
If you have pain in the lower back after your car accident, you may be dealing with a lumbar spine injury. These injuries present themselves in a number of ways, but two of the most common presentations are fractures along the spinal cord or sciatica, which occurs when the sciatic nerve has pressure on it that causes pain. The pain typically radiates through the lower back and down into the legs. Your car accident doctor will use clinical evaluations, including x-rays or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), to determine if you have a lumbar spine injury.
The first thing you should do after a car accident is to check yourself for injuries. If you have a serious injury, call 911 or have someone else do so if you can’t. Next, check on your passengers. If you haven’t already called 911 and you find someone injured, do so now. If you can, get out of the vehicle, remove the passengers from the vehicles, and get to a sidewalk or the side of the road.
At this point, you’ll want to call 911 even if nobody is seriously injured. This is because you’ll need the police to come and document the accident. Sometimes, during busy times or because of other extenuating circumstances, the police will recommend you complete a report yourself at the nearest station. Regardless of who takes the report or where you go to do it, do not skip this step. You’ll need the report to file insurance claims and should you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit sometime in the future.
While you’re waiting for help to arrive, you can exchange information with any other drivers at the scene of the accident. Gather full names, phone numbers, and email addresses to start. You’ll also need to ask for the auto insurance company and policy information, driver’s license, and license plate numbers. Write down the vehicle’s make, model, and color, and document the location of the accident.
When help arrives, they can help you document the accident more thoroughly. For your part, you’ll want to make sure that you get the names and badge numbers of any officers on the scene. Ask for a copy of the accident report as well, as your auto insurance provider is likely to ask for it if you need to file a claim. Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident and all of the vehicles involved from a wide variety of angles. Your insurance provider may ask for these pictures as well. Finally, be sure to talk to and gather the contact information of any witnesses who stayed on the scene.
If your neck and back pain doctor determines you have one of the abovementioned injuries after a car accident, he or she is likely to refer you to several different types of treatment or medications. The doctor will customize the specific treatment based on your personal injury and needs.
Spinal adjustments from a licensed chiropractor can often help ease the pain of car accident injuries to the neck or back. Most of the time, your chiropractor will use a method called spinal manipulation for your back and neck pain treatment. He or she does this with a controlled movement that forces your vertebrae to re-align and stop putting pressure on the nerves in your spine. Depending on the severity of your injuries, just one treatment may be effective. More severe injuries will require several treatments, though.
Physical therapy is another common treatment that your car accident doctor may prescribe. The type of therapy varies based on where you hurt the most and the specific type of injury you received in the accident. You may do hands-on stretching work, focus on strengthening exercises, or use other techniques. Physical therapy often requires several appointments and will often include exercises for you to do at home as well. Your physical therapist will customize your treatment to meet your needs and physical fitness levels to help you regain strength and flexibility in your back, neck, legs, or any other part of your body that you injured in the car accident.
Sometimes, lifestyle changes will be necessary to help your back or neck pain. Your neck and back pain doctor will talk to you about your current nutrition and exercise habits. He or she may request that you follow special diets that help to reduce inflammation or will take off extra weight. If you weren’t very active before, the doctor may recommend more exercise. On the other hand, if you were extremely athletic before, you may need to tone it down until your neck and back heal fully.
Depending on the severity of your accident and the resulting injuries, your doctor may prescribe you medication or injections. If your doctor does not prescribe pain medication or muscle relaxants for you, he or she will likely recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen.
Inflammation related to pinched nerves often benefits from corticosteroid injections. The medication reduces inflammation and pain in the areas around the pinched nerves. The injection provides pain relief for several days, weeks, or months at a time while your body heals.
When you develop a cold or have a persistent cough, you have a family doctor you visit. That family doctor may be an excellent medical practitioner, but he or she probably isn’t equipped to deal with the possibly life-altering injuries and resulting neck pain treatment needs that someone may sustain after a car accident.
A neck and back pain doctor is experienced in treating neck pain and is more knowledgeable about the intricacies of the spinal cord and all the injuries it could sustain due to the sudden impact of an auto accident. He or she assesses your soft tissue injuries and helps you find physical therapy care, chiropractic care, or other types of care to help you heal and, hopefully, to get back to your former self.
A neck and back pain doctor is also important in case you need to file a personal injury claim. These doctors document every detail of your accident and the injuries you sustained from it, which will be necessary for filing any claim. They can also directly bill the insurance company, which helps to ensure you don’t need to pay for your injuries out of pocket. Family doctors often aren’t experienced with working with auto insurance providers, which could lead to mistakes.
If you were in a car accident, it is important to visit a car accident doctor in New York or New Jersey as soon as possible afterward to get treatment for neck pain. Doing so ensures you receive an accurate diagnosis of any pain and can provide the best documentation possible for your insurance provider. For more information or to schedule a consultation appointment, get in touch with the professionals at Accident Help Zone today. Doctors listed in our directory accept no-fault, workers’ compensation, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), medical liens, and other insurance plans. Cal (888) 412-8488 now. Same-day appointments may be available.
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