An automobile accident can cause a tremendous disruption in your life. It is important to first address any injuries you sustain in an accident. Many people are transported to a hospital emergency room immediately following an accident either by ambulance or personal vehicle. If you have been injured but not treated in an emergency room seek treatment in a timely manner. An auto accident is both a medical and a legal matter. Failure to seek medical attention in a timely manner can cause difficulty in getting claims paid. It is not unusual for symptoms of injuries to be delayed in onset. It is important to keep a record of any complaints following an accident. This information may seem unimportant but can help your doctor make a full and correct diagnosis. It is also helpful should you need to retain the services of an attorney to settle your case. Injuries in an auto accident vary widely with the nature of the accident, the vehicle involved, the physical health of the person, the position of the person in the car and the position of the person in the seat. Most accidents produce injuries which do not require hospitalization. The injuries typically include bruising, cuts and abrasions, spinal sprain/strain, concussion and injuries to other joints. Proper treatment for injuries sustained in an auto accident usually requires the coordinated efforts of multiple practitioners. Emergent care physicians, Chiropractor, General Practitioner, Radiologist, Orthopedic Surgeon, Neurologist and Physical Therapist may all be involved in the treatment plan following an accident. It is important that treatment is coordinated and timely to achieve optimal recovery from the injuries.
Emergency Assessment of Injuries
Evaluating injuries sustained in an auto accident begins with any emergency procedures required. This is usually done immediately after the accident in a hospital emergency room. Evaluation of head injuries typically includes physical assessment, checking mental status and CT scan if indicated. Evaluation of spine, bone and joint injuries including X-rays is generally performed. Screening for signs of internal injuries with abdominal palpation, auscultation of the chest and abdomen and CT scan if needed are part of the emergency evaluation. Appropriate treatment of any open wounds is provided and can range from simple cleaning to suturing or stapling. The injured person is counselled on proper home treatment, recommendations to seek follow up care and on signs of more serious complications which could require a return to the emergency room. A short course of medications for pain, inflammation and muscle relaxation are typically prescribed.
A thorough assessment of injuries sustained in an auto accident begins with history of both the accident and general health. General health history is important in finding any factors which might affect the degree to which you are injured or your ability to recover from your injuries. Previous injuries which have healed leave scar tissue. This scar tissue is not as elastic as normal tissue and can cause greater injuries to result from trauma. There is also the possibility of a healed joint having less stability which would increase to nature of a new injury. Past or present medical conditions can also increase the likelihood of more serious injuries or prolong the healing process. Previous concussions cause the increased likelihood of future concussions. Smoking is a factor which will slow the healing process. A history of the current complaints and accident helps to identify risk factors which could be overlooked. Factors such as the type of vehicle you were in, the type of vehicle which struck yours, secondary collisions, damage to the seat, your body position in the seat at the time of the accident and position of the head rest can all contribute to greater injuries. A history of symptoms following the accident including the timing of their appearance and characteristics is important in guiding the physical examination. After a history has been obtained neurological assessment is performed. Visual disturbance, balance, coordination, deep tendon reflexes, specific muscle strength and skin sensation are some components use in determining possible injuries to the nervous system. Orthopedic testing including range of motion, evaluation of edema, tenderness to palpation over joints or muscles and specific orthopedic tests and maneuvers is used to evaluate musculoskeletal injuries. Radiologic examination is an important tool in proper diagnosis. Much of the radiologic examination is often performed in the emergency assessment of the injuries and these studies can be utilized avoid unnecessary exposure to x-ray. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often indicated and is usually obtained around three weeks after the injury. The information obtained from history, physical examination and radiologic examination is compiled to derive an initial diagnosis. This diagnosis is used to develop a treatment plan to achieve the best results possible.
The treatment of people injured in automobile accidents usually begins with emergency assessment and treatment in the hospital emergency room. People present to our office for treatment of their injuries and are assessed and given a treatment plan. The plan normally includes the services of a General Practitioner to work in conjunction with the chiropractic services provided in our office. The general practitioner provides their assessment of the injuries and recommendations for treatment. They also provide their services including any prescriptions or procedures needed for treatment.The treatment plan begins with instruction in proper home treatment. Rest which can vary from avoiding only strenuous activity to bed rest is prescribed. The proper use of ice and/or heat application is important. It is important to understand the correct use of over the counter and prescription medications for pain, inflammation and muscle relaxation. The backbone of treatment is Chiropractic care to restore proper motion in the joints of the spine, remove any irritation of the nerve roots and establish balance in the spine. We use manual techniques for relaxing muscles and reeducating the proprioceptors to improve muscle tone and balance. We use assisted stretching and joint mobilization to techniques to restore full motion and proper function to joints. Electrical muscle stimulation is used to sedate muscles, increase lymphatic drainage, reduce swelling and decrease pain. Traction is used to relax muscles, decompress joints and decrease pain. Specific stretches and exercises performed in the office and/or at home are used to strengthen the injured areas and restore balance. It is sometimes necessary to prescribe a course of physical therapy to rehabilitate the injured areas. Treatment generally begins at a high frequency in the early stages and gets less frequent during the course of care. Treatment duration varies greatly among patients and is dependent on the severity of the injuries sustained. Successful treatment is dependent on a proper diagnosis, consistent care with proper adjustments to the treatment plan when needed and compliance with the treatment plan. Orthopedic surgeons are utilized for the treatment of any fractures or dislocations and are usually involved while in the emergency room. Orthopedic surgeons, Neurologists and Neurosurgeons are referred to for evaluation of disc injuries, joint injuries and concussions. It is important to have resources to properly treat the wide range of injuries that can occur in auto accidents. In many cases it is truly a team approach to get the best treatment for the injured person. The objective in treating injuries is to recover fully and be as close to normal function as possible. Injuries to connective tissues which includes the muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin heal with scar tissue. Scar tissue is strong but does not have the same elastic qualities as normal tissue. This lack of elastic properties mean that there will be some deficit after healing is complete. Our objective is to restore the motion to the injured areas and restrengthen them to have the smallest and strongest amount of scar tissue possible. This generally allows people to return to their full activities and maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.
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If you are in an accident it is important to follow some basic steps to help the process be as smooth as possible. This is a checklist of steps to be taken if you are involved in an auto accident.
Immediately After the Accident
Do not leave the scene of the accident.
Determine if anyone is injured.
Call 911 to report the accident and follow any instructions the police give you.
Request a tow through your insurance company if possible. Note the name of the towing company and the location of their lot.
Be Courteous and polite but do not admit fault.
Collect the names and car insurance of any persons involved in the accident.
Ask for contact information only if the other driver does not provide insurance information.
Get the name and contact information of any witness to the accident.
Provide your name and insurance information to the police and other driver of drivers involved in the accident.
To protect your identity only give out the following information.
Your vehicle's make, model, year, color and VIN
Your insurance company, agents name and phone number and policy number.
Do Not allow your license or registration to be copied or photographed.
Do Not provide your address or contact information to the other drivers or witnesses.
Document the Accident
Write down the details of the accident.
Date and time
Description of the accident
Description of damage and injuries
Details of police or emergency involvement
Photograph If it is safe to do so use your smart phone or camera to photograph.
Damage to your vehicle
Damage to other vehicles
License plates of involved vehicles
Damage to property
Skid marks, accident debris, street signs and any factors contributing to the accident such as obscured traffic signs
Document everything Always write down the names of police officers, investigators and insurance claims adjustors. When you speak to an insurance company representative note their name,date and time of contact and a brief description of the conversation. Keep receipts of all expenditures including transportation, parking and repair costs.