Sudden, scary, and inconvenient: vehicle accidents occur when you least expect them. Because no one can anticipate when they will get into a car accident and (hopefully) they are not common occurrences for any one person, determining what to do in the aftermath can be difficult to discern. With a million different thoughts entering your mind in the moments leading up to, during, and after a car crash, it’s possible that someone could easily be distracted from their injuries. Considering that it only takes a fender bender occurring at speeds as slow as 5-10 mph to cause whiplash injuries, it’s clear that even if the accident does not seem to be serious, it can still cause painful and lasting injuries. Because it can sometimes take hours, days, and even weeks for auto injuries to become prevalent, it’s important to understand what to expect after an auto accident and which actions to take first.
Despite the many technical and legal actions that need to be taken after a car accident, the one task that should take precedence is checking yourself for injury. (1) Even if you find that your injuries are minimal or non-existent after checking, it is possible that your body is just temporarily masking the pain through chemicals (Endorphins and Adrenaline) it releases after experiencing stress or trauma. Similar to drugs that are prescribed for pain relief (like morphine and codeine), endorphins reduce our perception of pain, causing people to think that they are not actually injured because they do not immediately experience symptoms. Endorphins are also naturally released in a healthy quantity through a number of chiropractic treatments, including deep tissue massage, which helps the body to heal itself and alleviate pain caused by car accident injury. Adrenaline is a hormone released when a stressful situation occurs and creates a “fight or flight” response in our body, which reduces pain. The effect of this sudden spike of these chemicals in the body varies dependent on the person, often delaying injury symptoms. The most common injury symptom caused by vehicle accidents is whiplash.
Whiplash (2), also known as neck pain and stiffness, is caused by the abrupt backward and forward jerking motion of the head and can cause damage to joints located between vertebrae (intervertebral joints), discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots. While this is where whiplash is concentrated, it effects the full spine. Here are some signs and symptoms.
- Neck pain/stiffness
- Pain in the shoulder/between the shoulder blades
- Low back pain
- Difficulty concentrating/remembering
- Sleep disturbances
Many people assume that time and rest will heal whiplash or neck pain caused by an accident, however this self-diagnosis could make symptoms worse. While you may be scared to move around, resting can cause the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back to get stiff and weak, and could actually prolong your pain. (3) By going to see a medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible after an accident, you can avoid increasing the prolonged pain caused by whiplash, as well as other delayed injury symptoms that could become more serious with time.
Delayed Auto Injury Symptoms Include: (4)
1. Headaches – these could signal injury to the neck or head, including a serious concussion
2. Back Pain - low back pain is actually found in more than half of rear-impact collisions where injury was reported. (5) This could be caused by lumbar disc bulge/herniation which pinches the sciatic nerve
3. Abdominal pain/swelling – this could indicate internal bleeding, which can remain undiscovered for several hours or days. This could be life threatening if not treated immediately
4. Numbness – loss of feeling in the arms and hands could result from damage to the neck or spinal column. This could be caused by cervical disc bulge/herniation which pinches the nerves
Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can cause vivid and disturbing memories of the car accident and can even lead to nightmares. While PTSD is often associated with war veterans, the truth is that anyone who has experience some kind of traumatic event can succumb to it. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will automatically get PTSD, however there are varying levels for those who do. PTSD symptoms can start days, months, or even years after the event and can come and go over time.
Some PTSD symptoms include:
- Flashbacks (reliving the event)
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event (such as avoiding cars after being involved in a crash)
- Paranoia (being more cautious or pessimistic)
- Hyperarousal (constantly being jittery or alert)
Beyond the serious medical issues that can be created by waiting to diagnose an injury caused by a car accident, it is important to also note the legal and financial implications as well. Florida automobile insurance laws require vehicle owners to have a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. While this coverage provides compensation to drivers in an accident, the benefits may only be apprehended if you receive medical treatment for injuries within fourteen days of the accident, otherwise you would be ineligible. In other words, if you do not experience symptoms from a car accident injury and seek medical attention within two weeks of the event, you will not be helped by the insurance and will have to pay your medical bills out of pocket. (7)
Natural Auto Accident Treatments In Tallahassee
Car accident chiropractors can help alleviate these signs and symptoms of auto injuries. Seeking diagnosis and treatment from a chiropractic physician within two weeks of your car accident can help you to receive your PIP benefits and provide you with personal injury chiropractic before injuries and costs escalate.
In Tallahassee, Florida, Dr. Eric Pragle performs a comprehensive exam with neurological tests, deep tendon reflexes, muscle tests, cerebellar exam (concussion or traumatic brain injury signs) and orthopedic tests focused on nerve injury and muscle weakness. Through careful examination and diagnosis, Pragle Chiropractic and Massage Therapy is able to provide proper treatment, medical advice, and relief to people experiencing symptoms of car accident injuries.
For more information, call 850-508-5951