Today we’re going to be discussing whiplash injuries sustained from motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, car accidents are very common, especially here in New York City where drivers are a bit aggressive.
Should you seek medical attention after a car accident?
The question is how do you know if it’s just going to go away on its own or you should seek medical attention? We would posit that you don’t know and so you should seek medical attention following a car accident, unless you have no pain at all. Because it’s hard to really tell whether you have muscle pain, nerve pain, fractures, unless you’re an experienced doctor. Also we should probably talk about what happens in in a car accident and what is a whiplash injury.
What is a whiplash injury?
You’re buckled up driving in your car and car accident happens. Either you hit something or another car or you’re rear ended or struck by another car. What happens to your body, is you’re jolted forward and then you’re jolted backwards. Your neck sustains this kind of fast action trauma. Some of the things that could happen, you may sustain a ligament damage, you could sustain muscle tissue damage and if it’s very severe and very traumatic you may also herniate a disk. Worst case scenario we’ve seen fractures auto accidents especially the highway accidents.
What happens after a car accident usually the cops come and then they ask if you want want or need an ambulance, and a lot of times people go to the emergency room and they get some X-Rays done. We had patients come to see us with X-Rays taken in the hospital that said that everything is normal and then we send them out for MRI or CT-Scan because we were suspicious that something else was going on and the imaging comes back positive for fractures and herniated disks.
Don’t assume that just because you have normal x-rays your fine. If you’re feeling a lot of pain and it’s not subsiding every day after the accident, definitely go see a medical doctor who specializes in motor vehicle accidents.
We had patients that came to see us after a car accident and its sort of follows a trend where immediately after the accident they are sort of OK and it’s probably adrenaline and they still feeling okay and then as a few days go by their pain tends to get worse. It’s their body kind of catching up with what actually happened to them during the car accident. Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours after the incident that caused the whiplash. Sometimes, symptoms may develop after a few days and can last for several weeks.
It’s actually an important point where initially you might feel okay, but then two or three days later you might start to feel that pain and that could be because you have a fracture that has not been not diagnosed or an injury that actually lingered quite a bit. It’s very important to follow up especially if it’s not getting better.
What are the symptoms of a Whiplash Injury?
The primary symptom of whiplash injury is neck or upper back pain. The pain can start immediately or develop days, weeks, or sometimes even months later. Symptoms can vary widely among individuals. Some may only suffer minor discomfort while others experience one or more of the following:
- Tightness or spasms of the muscles the neck or upper back
- Pain with movement of the neck, headache and dizziness (symptoms of a concussion)
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing and hoarseness (could indicate injury to the esophagus and larynx)
- Abnormal sensations such as burning or tingling
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
Severe whiplash can also include injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles and nerve of the neck or upper back.
3 Signs You Should See A Doctor After A Car Accident
A few red flags that we want to mention that you should be especially concerned about:
- Number one on our list is loss of range of motion. In the cases where we found fractures that people did not know about because they only had X-Rays done, they always were not able to move their neck fully. So if you cannot move your neck fully definitely come in to see a Doctor and get it checked out.
- If you’re feeling numbness going down your arm into your fingers or traveling to your shoulder blade, that’s not normal.
- If you’re feeling weakness in one of your hands or both of your arms, something like that you have to come in and seek help. Those are the big red flags. Muscle soreness is normal and can go away but if it’s persistent, sharp and sever it can also be a sign of an underlying nerve root impingement from a disk. So these are all things that we screen for to the full extent to look for.
What are the Treatment Options For Whiplash Injury?
Most cases of whiplash are treated using conservative methods such as:
- In most cases patients are encouraged to remain as active as possible
- Ice or heat can be used to control pain, muscle spasm, and inflammation.
- Medications to reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasms are often prescribed and can be very helpful.
- A course of spinal manipulation or mobilization can help in restoring normal positioning of the muscles and joints to allow for an active physical therapy program.
- Physical therapy helps to increase circulation, restore range of motion, and promote healing. The use of modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation should are used in the early stages of treatment to reduce pain and assist in getting an active therapy program started.
- In more severe cases of whiplash, additional treatments may be necessary. Patients with continued neck pain may find relief from trigger point injections. If symptoms persist for more than 6 weeks, it may be due to a more severe injury involving the facet joints or discs. These can be treated with interventional pain management treatments with careful use of injections and other procedures that try to block the area of pain. Surgery is rarely necessary and is usually performed to treated herniated discs that have not improved with more conservative non-surgical measures.
What kind of doctor should you see following a car accident?
Primary Care Doctors
One of the first doctors seen by the car accident patient, after the emergency room doctor, is often the primary care doctor, or family doctor. Primary care doctors have one solution to car accident injuries: prescriptions for muscle relaxants and pain pills with a referral to physical therapy if no improvement in a “few weeks.” Sometimes that is all that is needed to recover from an auto accident injury, but often the pain and disability persist and the patient feels that they should have been better and, since they are not, there is no hope for recovery.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Doctors
The good news is that there actually are specialists in the medical profession who deal with car accident injuries. These doctors are called Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctors. They study for this specialty in medical school and pass exams to certify that they are qualified to assess and treat traumatic muscle injuries such as ones from car accidents. Physical medicine doctors treat sports injuries as well as injuries from car accidents, or other accidents. These specialists have lots of “tools” to treat car accident injuries, from prescribing specific medications to injecting various medications into muscles to calm the pain and promote muscle healing. These specialists also work closely with “manual medicine” providers, who provide physical therapy specifically to manipulate the injured muscles and joints to promote pain relief and healing.
Physical medicine doctors also know when the injury is not just in the muscle or joint, but may also be coming from a damaged nerve in the spine. They are trained to administer nerve conduction tests (EMG/NCV) to determine if nerves in the neck or back are causing the pain and dysfunction, and to then identify those nerves and where they may be damaged. Physical medicine doctors then can refer car accident patients for further diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, CT-Scan, X-RAY if needed, or to other specialists such as orthopedic doctors or neurologists that may be needed for evaluation or treatment of all or part of the car accident injury.
How Physical Therapy Helps To Treat Whiplash?
What we do in physical therapy for whiplash injury, obviously we want to just make sure that we can restore the full range of motion in the neck or we want to make sure that the person can move, rotate their neck, move their head. Once we restore the motion, we deal with pain, we manage their pain and once that’s established then we can try to strengthen and stabilize them so they can go back to driving their car, working their job in the office or do whatever they do for work and life.
How Can Precision Care Medical & Sports Performance Medical Providers Help You After A Car Accident?
The end goal is that we want to break the cycle of pain so that you don’t end up with chronic pain after a motor vehicle accident. From what we’ve seen in the success that we had with the patients that we treated at Precision Care Medical & Sports Performance, it’s definitely possible with active mobilization, good medication management, ordering appropriate tests, performing minimally invasive pain management procedures such as Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injection, Nerve Blocks.
We’re able to really prevent people from ending up in that chronic cycle of pain which is our end goal and get them back to what they were doing before they were injured in a car accident.
We think that’s a pretty simple and good message.
If you are involved in a car accident and you are experiencing any pain, seek medical attention right away don’t just wait it out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make sure that the doctors are doing everything for you, that you are pain free.
We are always here for you Precison Care Medical & Sports Performance
Accident Doctor Near Me
Precision Care Medical & Sports Performance
|Monday||8:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
|Tuesday||8:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
|Wednesday||8:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
|Thursday||8:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
|Friday||8:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
|Saturday||10:00 AM - 3:00 PM|