After you've injured your back or neck in a car wreck, you may be wondering what's wrong with me? Can I feel better? How long will it take? First of all, let me remind you: I am not a physician, and this is a blog post that does not include legal or medical advice. (You should always talk to your doctor and design a treatment plan that is best for you.) In this post, I’m going to list some of the kinds of treatment that clients in my legal practice have told me that they find helpful for their back and neck injuries.
Just after an accident: Just after you’ve been injured most people benefit from a thorough evaluation. Many times that evaluation occurs in the emergency room. In some situations, family physicians evaluate folks after an injury. The first assessment often includes diagnostic tests such as x-rays and a CT scan. When the patient isn’t suffering from a serious injury, they are released. Physicians may prescribe painkillers and muscle relaxers and recommend that the patient follow-up with their physician.
In the weeks following the accident: It is important to follow orders and follow-up with your family physician if recommended. He or she will spend more time with you outlining your treatment plan.
That plan could include any of the following:
- Physical therapy: Your family physician may recommend that you participate in physical therapy. In physical therapy, you work with a trained professional who evaluates your injuries and creates a program, which usually centers on rehabilitative exercise, to improve your pain and functioning. Many of my clients benefit from physical therapy. Often, they complete a course of treatment in a month or two and are released with a “home exercise program” that helps them continue to make progress. Occasionally the symptoms resurge after a while, and the client returns to the second course of physical therapy.
- Chiropractic care: You may be referred to a chiropractor for follow up after an accident. A chiropractor will also work with you to create a plan for recovery. West Virginia law describes "Chiropractic" as the science and art which utilizes the inherent recuperative powers of the body and the relationship between the neuro-musculoskeletal structures and functions of the body, particularly of the spinal column and the nervous system, in the restoration and maintenance of health. Each situation is different, but I have seen many clients recover following chiropractic care. Like physical therapy, sometimes additional follow-up care is helpful.
- Pain medications: Many of my clients are prescribed pain medication after an accident. However, it is imperative to work closely with your physicians to be sure that you are receiving the appropriate amount of medicines for the proper amount of time.
- Other medications: In addition to pain medication, many clients take muscle relaxers for their injuries in the first days or weeks after the accident. It is critical to review the use of muscle relaxers with your physician and to be honest with him or her about what machinery you operate at work and whether or not you are driving. Some clients are prescribed NSAIDs to reduce swelling. In situations when the pain persists, physicians refer patients for epidural injections and oral steroids to promote relief.
- Massage therapy. Many of my clients report that they benefit from massage therapy. West Virginia defines massage therapy as “…a health care service that is a scientific and skillful manipulation of soft tissue for therapeutic or remedial purposes, specifically for improving muscle tone, circulation, promoting health and physical well-being.” Massage therapy involves the manipulation of the muscle and connective tissue of the body, for the purpose of enhancing health, reducing stress, improving circulation, aiding muscle relaxation, increasing the range of motion, or relieving neuro-muscular pain. Many physicians, physical therapists, and chiropractors refer clients for massage therapy from certified professionals.
- Neurological treatment. When clients suffer from a head injury, concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, they may experience headaches, disturbances in vision and a loss of balance. These people typically are referred by their family physician to a neurologist. Other clients are referred to a neurologist when their pain persists, and their treating physician is concerned that the client may be suffering from nerve damage. Neurologists often begin with testing that may include nerve tests or an MRI. The treatment may include physical therapy, medications, and injections.
- Further testing. When pain (or limited mobility) persists, most physicians will order further testing. That might include nerve testing to locate damaged nerves, additional x-rays or MRIs.
- Orthopedic treatment. If a client has sustained a fracture or continues to have pain, they may often seek treatment an orthopedist. This treatment, in the case of a fracture, may include some restriction of mobility, such as the use of a cast, follow up, and eventually a referral to physical therapy.
- Spinal treatment. When a client has been receiving treatment for some time and has not recovered, the physician may refer him or her to a center that specializes in back pain and spinal injuries. These centers often have a team of professionals including spinal surgeons, neurosurgeons, physical therapists, and pain management experts.
- Counseling. Sometimes the trauma of a wreck causes nightmares. Other times it impairs your ability to drive. Please don't ignore these symptoms and talk with someone about getting some help. You deserve to feel normal.
- Other options. There are many other options, too numerous to list here, that my clients have tried to eliminate or reduce their back and neck pain and lack of mobility after an accident. The most important thing is to continue to work for a full recovery. Our office works with accident victims to help get medical bills paid so that they have every opportunity to fully recover. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss your case with me with no cost and no obligation.