Following a motor vehicle accident, most people will be diagnosed with whiplash due to the sudden impact. When our neck is forced to bend forward then backward quickly, or vice versa, the ligaments and muscles involved become injured. Besides whiplash, many people involved in a motor vehicle collision will have other injuries such as bruising in the seatbelt area, nerve damage that extends into the arms, back problems, soft tissue pain and broken bones. In severe accidents, brain damage can occur.
What symptoms do doctors look for when making a diagnosis?
After you have been removed from the scene of the accident and taken to the hospital, the doctors will perform tests to examine the extent of your injuries. Broken bones and bruising are easier to diagnose than whiplash, so you will probably have to remain in the hospital for quite some time to be closely monitored.
In general, the symptoms of whiplash can involve pain and stiffness in the neck, dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, problems with memory and concentration, fatigue, and irritability. Doctors are also on the lookout for shoulder and lower back pain, numbness or pain in your arms and hands, jaw tightness and headaches.
After you’ve received your diagnosis, the doctor will recommend a short period of rest followed by physiotherapy.
Common injury treatment following a motor vehicle accident
When you visit the physiotherapist, they will tailor your treatment program to suit your recovery needs. Everyone responds to treatment differently and your physiotherapist will create a program that will address your particular issues without increasing your chances of causing further damage to the injury.
There are different therapies available that are used to treat motor vehicle accident patients. These are the most common:
- Passive joint mobilization: This is when the physiotherapist gently moves your neck, arms and legs to help reduce pain and restore movement.
- Active stretching: This involves using proper stretching techniques to get you moving again. Once you can stretch without pain, your therapist will move on to strengthening and conditioning techniques to ensure you can get back to your active lifestyle with increased energy.
- Electrotherapy: Using a combination of TENS machines (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), ultrasound and laser therapy, this passive treatment helps you regain your movement. Electrotherapy is a passive therapy because the machines do all the work to decrease tissue inflammation.
- Acupuncture: By inserting fine needles into certain points on your body, pain and inflammation are greatly reduced.
- Massage therapy: This treatment involves massage techniques to calm your aching muscles and joints while helping you relax.
- Medication: If you have been severely injured and require surgery, your doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication along with painkillers. Medication is only a short-term treatment and your physiotherapist will help you with pain management when you get off the prescription drugs.
- Custom orthotics: These are knee braces and orthopedic inserts for your shoes to help evenly distribute your weight as you recover.
- Counselling: Following a motor vehicle accident, many people loathe getting behind the wheel again. With the help of a mental health professional like a psychologist, you’ll be able to overcome your fear and get back to your normal routine. PTSD often hits those who have been in an accident and by working with a psychologist you’ll be able to work through this issue.
- Nutrition counselling: After an accident, you may not have much of an appetite or, conversely, have an overactive appetite. Whether it is the stress of recovery that is causing you to overeat or the anti-inflammatory medication that is making you nauseous, you’ll work with a nutritionist to ensure you are getting enough vitamins, minerals and fresh foods to give you the strength and energy you need to get back on your feet.
- Education: The treatment process starts with the physiotherapist but it ends with you. Your physiotherapist will provide you with the tools necessary to understand your treatment and teach you things like proper posture, how to lift and bend over without hurting yourself, and what to do when you get back to work. They’ll also give you exercises you can do at home.
Recovering from an accident
The recovery period varies from person to person but research shows that those who are active are able to recover faster and return to their normal activities. For this reason it’s important to work with a physiotherapist. Do not attempt to recover from a motor vehicle accident by yourself. Even if you have no visible injuries, you could have a concussion and your doctor will still suggest physiotherapy to help get you back to your old self.
Please contact us if you have any questions about injury treatment or to make an appointment with one of our registered physiotherapists. At Focus Physiotherapy, our goal is getting you better and providing a state of the art level of care.