Health Travel

Oh My Wreck!— Understanding Common Injuries After a Car Accident

Every year, more than three million people in the United States are injured in car accidents. The injuries may range from mild to severe, and the type of injury you sustain may depend on the type of accident you experience. In general, the most common three types of injuries following an accident are whiplash and injuries to the head and back.

Whiplash

According to Martinez & Schill, whiplash is a medical condition that occurs when your body is intensely jolted in one direction and your head moves forward and suddenly moves back. This condition frequently occurs as a result of rear-end car accidents. The symptoms of whiplash generally develop within one day of the accident. Common symptoms include neck stiffness and pain, dizziness, loss of range of motion of the neck, fatigue, worsening neck pain when moving, numbness or tingling in the arms, headaches and pain or tenderness in the upper back, arms or shoulders. Less common symptoms include depression, blurred vision, memory issues, ringing in the ears, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances and irritability. The goals of treatment for whiplash are to control pain, restore your ability to pursue normal activities and regain a normal range of motion. For pain management, your medical team may recommend rest, applying heat or cold, or taking over-the-counter pain medications and certain prescription medications. Exercise, physical therapy and foam collars may be prescribed to help increase range of motion and promote muscle strength.

Head Injuries

Concussions are common following auto accidents. This type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) develops when the brain hits the interior of the skull due to a change in momentum or movement. Characterized by headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, fatigue and ringing in the ears, the best treatment for concussions is rest. Contusions are another common head injury following auto accidents. These bruises appear on the brain as a result of direct impact to the head. Signs and symptoms of contusions include cognitive changes, difficulty concentrating, slurred speech, numbness or tingling and difficulty balancing. Mild contusions may be treated at home using ice, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers, but more severe contusions warrant professional medical attention.

Back Injuries

Car accidents are a common cause of serious back injuries. Back strains may develop when the soft tissues of the back are damaged due to the pressure of an impact. Sprains may also affect the soft tissues following an accident, especially in the tendons that connect bones to other bones or joints. Herniated discs are another common injury following an accident. This condition occurs when pressure or force from an accident causes the spongy discs of the back to rupture or break.

Depending on the severity of your back injury, your doctor may recommend prescription pain medications, steroids, physical therapy, surgical intervention or chiropractic care. While some of these injuries are readily apparent immediately following an accident, others may not be observed until days after the event. If you experience any discomfort or symptoms following an accident, seek medical attention to assess your condition and begin proper treatment.