Car Accident Injury PatientsWhat to expect if you have been injured in an auto accident
Common injuries related to accident or trauma
When will pain occur?
After being involved in a motor vehicle accident there is a misconception that any pain caused by the accident should occur directly after the accident. While this may be true for broken bones or cuts caused by the accident, soft tissue injuries may present differently. Soft tissue includes structures such as muscle, ligaments, fascia, and tendons. Soft tissue injury timelines fall into one of three categories:
- Pain within 1 to 2 hours after the accident typically once the adrenaline rush has subsided
- Pain with 24-48 hours
- Pain and headaches, 1 to 2 weeks after the accident occurs
There can also be neurological side effects from a motor vehicle accident as well. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Loss of consciousness – Nausea/Vomiting
- Trouble Concentrating – Memory loss
- Dizziness – Trouble speaking/finding right word
- Feel in a “fog” – Muscle Weakness
- Numbness – Light-headedness
- Fatigue – Headaches
Whiplash or Sprain/Strain
The most frequent injury resulting from motor vehicle accidents are sprains and sprains. Sprains are a tearing of ligaments, and strains are a tearing of muscles in any part of your body. The most frequently torn muscles are those surrounding the neck and low back. However, it is very likely to get sprains in the ankle, knee, elbow and shoulder as a result of motor vehicle accidents. The term whiplash usually refers specifically to the neck and is a hyperextension or hyperflexion injury of neck soft tissue. Depending on how you were hit your neck is thrown forward or backwards at high rate of speed causing injury.
Many patients who receive a sprain/strain are treated initially by their primary care physician, prescribed medication, and advised that pain should resolve within 6 to 8 weeks. While this is often true, frequently a more hands-on approach, like chiropractic, will result in decreased pain at an earlier stage. This can lead to decrease loss of work and a greater ability to function through normal activities such as taking care of your children and taking care of yourself. Active care in the form of specific exercises will also reduce the chance of re-injury at a later date.
These headaches are technically known as cervicogenic headaches, meaning coming from the neck. They are usually the result of inflammation to the upper neck region, which causes muscle spasms that pull on the base of the skull. They typically start right at the base of the skull and bore forward often times into the back of the eye socket. Pain can be dull, achy or throbbing. While medication has been proven to alleviate the pain of cervicogenic headaches, the literature has shown that a 6-week course of manipulation will not only remove the pain, but also reduce the chance of reoccurrence once treatment has been removed.
Post Traumatic Radicular Symptoms (Pain down the Arms or Legs)
Another possible symptom after a motor vehicle accident is numbness and tingling going down into the hands or legs. The cause of this type of pain, which is known as radicular pain, is caused by something pushing against or irritating your nerves. The most likely causes for this pressure after an accident are: (1) a herniated disc pushing on the nerve or (2) inflamed muscle irritating the nerve.
Discs in your low back have similar structure to a jelly donut or a radial tire. They have thick outer fibers and a more gelatinous inner core. Trauma can cause the outer structure to weaken allowing the inner fluid to bulge out and push against a nerve.
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is pressure from the muscles in the front of the neck or the chest pushing into nerves causing numbness and tingling down the arms. Recent research suggests that TOS often occurs after a whiplash injury.
Piriformis syndrome is a pressure from a muscle deep in the buttock causing irritation to the sciatic nerve.
Treatment for radicular symptoms depends upon diagnosis. Disc herniations can often resolve with conservative care such as decompression, home traction and exercise. TOS and piriformis syndrome require very specific treatment to the effected muscles. It maybe necessary to order further tests to evaluate and diagnosis the cause of radicular pain. These tests include an MRI, which shows the integrity of the discs or an EMG, which is an electric nerve conduction test showing nerve interference. The doctors in our group are trained to properly diagnose and treat radicular symptoms.
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