There are many types of auto accidents ranging from mild to severe. After being involved in one, many people would decide against going to the emergency room for anything short of a broken limb, open wound, or some pretty obvious brain damage.
This is a bad idea.
After an accident, there’s a lot of confusion; adrenaline has spiked, people are afraid, and everyone’s scrambling to decide who’s to blame.
Once the dust has settled, how do you decide whether or not you should see an auto injury doctor? What if you don’t need emergency services, but something still doesn’t feel quite right?
Signs You Should See a Doctor After an Auto Accident
Chronic Pain in the Muscles or Joints
Even a minor car accident can cause substantial damage to your muscles and joints. The sudden jolting of the body is enough to damage muscle and joint tissue. The result can be chronic pain that makes daily activities difficult or even impossible.
Car accidents can damage the vertebrae, causing inflammation and swelling.
Another common result of auto accidents is slipped disc syndrome. Discs are like cushions between each vertebra, protecting them from impacting one another as you move. They’re composed of a soft inner nucleus surrounded by a hard outer shell. A slipped disc is when the inner nucleus is forced out through a tear in the outer layer and presses up against a spinal nerve.
The pain that results from a slipped disc can be incredibly intense. It can cause shooting pain in the back and into the extremities. Tingling and numbness are other common factors, as well as difficulty moving, sleeping, and concentrating.
Whiplash is the most common auto accident injury resulting from a rear-end collision. It can occur at speeds as low as 14 miles per hour.
Whiplash is the result of the sudden back-and-forth jolting of the neck. Symptoms include:
- Stiffness in the neck
- Neck pain that increases with movement
- Limited range of motion in the neck
- Headaches (these usually start at the base of the skull and later move upward)
- Shoulder, upper back, and arm pain
- Numbness and tingling in the arms
- Confusion, dizziness, and fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping
Other less common symptoms include:
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Memory loss
- Blurry vision
Whiplash can seriously interfere with your life. It can make simple daily tasks – both physical and mental – almost impossible.
A concussion is brain damage that results from the sudden acceleration or deceleration of the brain inside the skull.
Many auto accidents are enough to accelerate or decelerate the brain to the point that the brain tissue changes shape, stretching the brain cells to the point of damage. Chemical and metabolic changes can occur as well, mitigating the brain cell’s ability to send messages to other cells.
Symptoms of a concussion are similar in many ways to that of whiplash. In fact, whiplash often occurs simultaneously with a concussion, which is why there is so much overlap. However, the signs of a concussion are often worse than whiplash alone.
Tell-tale signs include:
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Intense confusion
- Delayed response to questions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seeing stars
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Disturbances in the senses of taste and smell
- Slurred speech
- Psychological issues like depression, irritability, and anger problems
The Latent Nature of Auto Accident Injuries
The dictionary definition of latent: (of a quality or state) existing but not yet developed or manifest; hidden or concealed.
This is the case with many auto accident injuries. They can take days or even weeks to fully manifest.
This is why it’s important to see an auto accident injury doctor immediately following an accident, even if you don’t notice any immediate symptoms.
Through MRIs and physical exams, a doctor can determine whether or not you have an injury that hasn’t manifested symptoms yet. The sooner the problem is diagnosed, the faster and more effective the treatment will be.
How Auto Injury Doctors Can Help
Auto injury doctors will start with comprehensive exams. These usually consist of physical and neurological examinations where they pay close attention to muscle weakness, misalignments in posture, injuries to the spine and joints, and brain trauma.
More in-depth diagnostics may involve diagnostic imaging, including:
- MRIs – Standing for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, this is a way of getting images of the internal state of the body via magnets and radio frequency waves. MRIs can create images of soft tissues that are even more vivid than conventional x-rays.
- Open MRIs – The same as MRIs, only with an open apparatus that allows for more comfort for those who are claustrophobic.
- Digital Motion X-rays – These are x-rays that take video of the inner workings of the body, allowing doctors to see spinal movements in real-time.
Chiropractic Care & Physiotherapy
Auto injury chiropractors can perform chiropractic adjustments to fix misalignments in the spine, enhance muscle strength, increase your range of motion, reduce inflammation, and lessen your pain.
Auto injury chiropractic care focuses on adjustments that provide pain relief in both the short and long term. This, in combination with physiotherapy, can give people suffering from auto accident injuries the ability to return to their day-to-day activities without chronic pain.
Physiotherapy involves exercises and stretching techniques aimed at increasing strength in the muscles, particularly the muscles surrounding the spine.
Many auto injury doctors also prescribe medical bracing – comfortable material that wraps around the body to provide support to injured muscles and joints. Bracing can also reduce inflammation and prevent reinjury.
Surgery & Interventional Pain Management
More in-depth auto accident injury treatment can include:
- Orthopedic Spinal Surgery – Surgery may be required for permanent spinal damage. Auto injury doctors can employ new technology and advanced procedures to correct these injuries. Often these involve little down time.
- Orthopedic Extremity Surgery – This involves the evaluation of bone and joint injuries to the hands, wrists, shoulders, and knees, followed by minimally invasive surgery.
- Interventional Pain Management – This involves non-surgical methods to manage chronic pain resulting from auto accidents.
- Chiropractic Neurology – When brain and spinal cord trauma occur, negative cognitive symptoms almost invariably arise. Many auto accident injury doctors can employ EEG, EMG/NCV, and VNG testing and various cognitive exercises.
Don’t Wait for Problems to Get Worse
As stated above, many auto accident injuries are latent in nature. What’s more, trying to wait them out once the symptoms do arise can just give the injuries more time to set in and become chronic.
Auto injury doctors specialize in exactly the types of problems you’re likely to experience even after a minor car accident.
If you’re noticing any of the symptoms outlined in this post after an accident, contact your local auto accident injury doctor.