Being involved in a car accident is a frightening experience, no matter how serious the wreck. Once the initial shock fades, you’re left dealing with police and first responders, insurance companies and a damaged vehicle. And even if you seem to have come through the experience unscathed, the adrenaline rush you feel in the moment may be masking the pain of an accident-related back or neck injury.
So, while you may feel fine now, symptoms including pain, discomfort, dizziness and numbness can appear days after your accident. Getting checked out by your doctor following a car wreck can help identify any injuries that may not otherwise be noticeable. Undergoing a thorough medical examination can also help prevent long-lasting pain, a sudden onset of pain and even long-term disability resulting from an undiagnosed and untreated injury.
The impact of two motor vehicles colliding, even at relatively safe speeds, can be a source of head and neck trauma. Whiplash (also known as a neck sprain or strain) is a common injury incurred in car wrecks. This condition is caused by an abrupt backward and/or forward jerking motion of the head.
The symptoms of whiplash don’t always occur instantly. In fact, they can sometimes take 24 hours or more after the initial trauma to manifest themselves. Within the first few days following a whiplash injury, you may experience:
- Neck pain and stiffness.
- Shoulder pain.
- Lower back pain.
- Pain or numbness in your arms and/or hands.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Irritability, sleep problems or fatigue.
Whiplash injuries most often affect the soft tissues of the neck and back, such as the spinal discs, muscles and ligaments. To properly diagnose whiplash, specialized imaging tests — such as CT scans or an MRI — are typically required. The pain associated with whiplash may be managed with medication, gentle exercises, physical therapy, traction, applications of hot and cold packs, massage or injections of anti-inflammatory drugs. More serious back and neck injuries resulting from a car accident may require surgical intervention.
You should seek medical attention immediately after a car accident, no matter how minor. Doing so is essential, and whether or not you are experiencing pain. The key to recovering from any injuries you may have sustained in a car wreck is to ensure that they are quickly evaluated and treated. Receiving immediate medical attention can also help in the event you will need to file a personal injury insurance claim for any injuries resulting from your accident. If you wait several days — or even weeks — to schedule an examination, it can be difficult to prove that the car crash caused your injuries.
If you’ve been in a car accident, don’t wait. Contact Houston’s most renowned spine doctor and orthopedic surgeon today for a consultation.