Dealing with the pain resulting from car accident injuries is an unfortunate part of life. In fact, Florida residents have a 1 in 82 chance of being injured in a car accident in a typical year. In 2015 alone, there were over 243,000 reported vehicle injuries in Florida. So, if you haven’t been in a car accident, consider yourself fortunate!
The car insurance industry estimates that the average person will file a car accident claim about once every 17.9 years. For someone getting a driver’s license at the age of 16, odds are they’ll experience some kind of crash by the age of 34. And statistically, over the course of a typical lifetime of driving, the average driver will have at least three accidents.
In This Article:
- How Common Are Car Accident Injuries?
- What Are Some Common Types of Car Accident Injuries?
- How Are Car Accident Injuries Treated?
- Is It Possible To Prevent Car Accident Injuries?
- Novus Spine & Pain Center
- Car Accident Injury Resources
How Common Are Car Accident Injuries?
Motor vehicle accidents are a frighteningly common occurrence. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCSC), vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury (38%), which is even more than falls (31%). Car accident injuries are also the most common reason people seek treatment for back pain.
Symptoms of a serious injury are not always immediately visible, often taking several days or even weeks to appear. However, it is important to seek medical attention within the first 24 to 72 hours following a car accident, even if it seems minor and there is no pain. Furthermore, by seeking immediate medical care, you’ll improve your chances of a successful recovery.
Seeking immediate medical care following an auto accident is also important because, according to Florida law, anyone injured in an auto accident is eligible for personal injury protection (PIP) to help cover the costs of injury-related expenses. However, to be eligible for these benefits, the accident victim must be treated within 14 days in compliance with the law. If this is not done, PIP benefits are not available to the victim, even if symptoms appear later.
What Are Some Common Types of Car Accident Injuries?
The head, neck, legs (including the knees), and feet are most likely to be injured in a car accident. However, many car accidents occur at relatively low speeds and may not produce immediately visible injuries. Some less obvious injuries, like whiplash and back injuries, can take a few days to develop. These types of injuries include:
- Head injuries are common in car crash victims and can result from a blow to the head upon impact. A blow to the head during a car accident can cause a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions are often the result of the head hitting the steering wheel, window, or any hard surface; but, they can also happen without the head hitting any surface. Symptoms of a concussion include loss of consciousness immediately following impact, headache, impaired memory, dizziness, or vision problems.
- Whiplash is the most common car accident injury. Most accidents occur at speeds of 14 mph or less, which may not cause damage to the vehicle. However, whiplash can occur at speeds as low as 2.5 mph. When a car stops suddenly, the body continues to travel forward. At the end of the body’s movement, the jerking motion can cause injury to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks, or the spinal cord itself. Even less severe neck and back injuries can cause chronic pain that significantly reduces the quality of life. If left untreated, whiplash can develop into chronic neck pain.
- A neck injury can occur in milder forms such as whiplash and neck strain, to more serious injuries like cervical dislocation and disc injury.
- Spinal cord injury can occur when the impact of an accident causes displaced bone fragments and disc material to tear into spinal cord tissue. This tearing can destroy a part of the nerve cells that carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Damage to the spinal cord often results in a loss of function or feeling.
- Back injuries are also very common results of a car accident. Any damage to the spinal cord can cause significant nerve damage. There can be a reduction in the sensation of, and control over, arms, hands, legs, feet, and other body parts. More serious forms of spinal damage can leave patients permanently paralyzed.
- Lower back pain is the most common back pain. It usually involves the soft tissues and muscles that wrap around the back of the waist. These muscles can experience bruising and trauma during a car accident. Additionally, the lumbar spine can sustain fractures, and abnormal movement of the vertebrae, that can result in lower back pain. Anyone in a car accident who is experiencing intermittent back pain before the accident may experience worse pain after the accident.
- Mid and upper back pain can occur when the injury is where the ribs connect to the spine. The thoracic region of the spine is a very stiff area of the body, protecting vital internal organs.
- Herniated discs can cause numb or tingling sensations, muscle weakness, and pain in the arms or legs, as a result of material leaking out of the disc and either pinching or irritating a nerve.
- Sciatica is severe pain in a leg along the sciatic nerve. The pain commonly runs from the buttock, down the leg, and to the toes. It is often caused by some type of compression of a spinal nerve in the lower back.
- Sprains and strains can occur when a back muscle is overstretched or a ligament tears. When a sprain or strain occurs, the area around the muscles can become inflamed and lead to a back spasm. A back spasm can cause severe lower back pain and difficulty moving because the spasm immobilizes the muscles in the injured area to protect the ligaments and joints from further damage.
- Fractured vertebrae can range from a compression fracture (bone collapses upon itself), to burst fractures (pieces pierce nearby tissue), to fracture-dislocations (broken bone and torn ligaments allowing bones to slide away from each other).
- Leg and knee injuries can result in wounds that range from contusions (bruises) to multiple fractures. The knees are particularly prone to tearing and dislocation if they are abruptly twisted or turned.
How Are Car Accident Injuries Treated?
Many effective treatments are available to help ease the pain of car accident injuries. Only a thorough medical examination can determine the exact treatment or combination of treatments. Also, the exact treatment will depend on the type and severity of an injury.
Treatments may include:
- Acupuncture is the Chinese practice of inserting very thin needles into the body to relieve pain. Practitioners say acupuncture may help the body release natural painkillers (endorphins), as well as stimulate nerve and muscle tissue.
- Chiropractic care is often used to help the body regain optimal spinal alignment, which is lost after a traumatic car accident. A method of spinal manipulation (adjustment) involves the use of controlled force to align vertebrae, stopping them from placing painful pressure on spinal nerves.
- Injections and Medial Branch Blocks. There are several different types of injections available to help alleviate persistent pain from injuries suffered in a car accident. Medications are injected directly to pain-causing nerves. Injections are usually more effective than oral medications because an injection targets the exact site of pain.
- Massage therapy can help relieve muscle pain by increasing blood circulation to the injured tissue and relaxing damaged muscles that cause pain.
- Medication. Anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and painkillers can help alleviate the pain and swelling.
- Neck or Back Brace. Often a neck or back brace can be a temporary pain management option. However, to heal correctly, restoring normal movement to the muscles is important.
- Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy, also called Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure that can help reduce pain by disrupting the nerves that carry pain signals. This procedure uses heat to damage a small area of nerve tissue with an electrical current from a radio wave. This procedure helps reduce the pain signals that form in the area of the injury.
- Physical therapy. The exact physical therapy treatment depends on the patient and the type of injury. Neck pain, whiplash, back pain, and most musculoskeletal discomforts can improve with physical therapy. The therapist will develop a custom series of exercises to help regain muscle strength and flexibility.
- Spinal Decompression Therapy is a non-surgical process that involves stretching the spine, using a traction table or other motorized device to help relieve back and leg pain.
Depending on the injuries, and after a complete physical examination, certain treatments performed at home can help with recovery from a car accident. These activities include:
- Over-the-counter medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), can help with general pain and swelling. Always check with a medical professional before starting a course of pain relievers, especially if taking other medications.
- Ice. The application of ice to the affected area can often help reduce swelling and pain to a muscle, ligament, or tendon.
- Resume Normal Activities. The natural inclination after a car accident is to take it easy and remain inactive. Most of the time, though, it is more beneficial to stay active. Avoiding activity may lead to the deconditioning of the musculoskeletal system, and further increase pain levels. Furthermore, it is important to maintain proper posture and avoid slouching to help with recovery.
- Home Exercise and Stretching. After a proper medical examination and evaluation, a series of simple home exercises and stretches can improve the biomechanics of injured muscles and joints, and decrease muscle tension.
Is It Possible to Prevent Car Accident Injuries?
Driving on public roads is always going to be risky, if for no other reason than mistakes by other drivers. The best way to avoid an accident, therefore, is to drive defensively and be aware of your surroundings while driving.
Here are things every driver can do to help prevent car accident injuries.
Wear a Seatbelt. The single most effective way to prevent a car accident injury is to wear a seat belt. Seat belts help keep the wearer from being tossed about the interior of the passenger cabin and help avoid being thrown into the steering wheel or an adjacent seat. A seat belt can save lives, and statistically reduces injuries and deaths by 50 percent.
Child Safety Seats. Always transport children age 2 and younger in rear-facing child safety seats in the vehicle’s back seat. Children less than 12 years of age should always ride in the back seat as well.
Sit Upright. Seat belts work best when the occupant is seated upright. If the driver or passenger is leaning forward, they are closer to the steering wheel or dashboard. Leaning back at an extreme angle makes it possible to slip out of the seat belt at the moment of an accident.
Drive the Speed Limit. Because of the kinetic energy involved in a collision, there is generally less risk of injury at slower speeds. Modern automobiles are designed to absorb and dissipate the impact of a collision. At excessive speeds, the energies are greater than the vehicle can properly absorb, and are transferred to passengers in the form of G-forces that increase the risk of injury or death. So, you can reduce the risk of injury by driving the speed limit.
Avoid Distracted Driving. Anything that takes attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, and eating while driving are some obvious examples of distracted driving. However, using a navigation system and adjusting the radio can be just as distracting. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, even for a second, can result in an accident. There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual – taking eyes off the road.
- Manual – taking hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive – taking mind off driving.
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message takes about 5 seconds. At 55 MPH, a vehicle will travel over 133 yards, which is more than the length of a football field, in 5 seconds.
Remove Loose Items from the Car Interior. Just as an unrestrained body will move about the passenger cabin in an accident, so too will lose items. Any unsecured object in the passenger cabin can strike the occupants in the event of an accident. Heavier objects have a greater chance of injuring passengers in a collision. Therefore, remove loose items from the cabin and place them in the trunk, if it is necessary to have them in the vehicle.
Drive a Safe Car. Driving a safe vehicle can go a long way toward helping survive a car accident. Newer model cars have many advanced safety features. When buying a vehicle, consider safety. Consumer Reports has many useful tips for car buyers.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and specializes in treating pain from car accident injuries. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.
Car Accident Injury Resources
How Many Times Will You Crash Your Car? (Forbes)
Florida Car Insurance Information (DMV Florida)
2017 Florida Statues (Online Sunshine)
How to Walk Away From a Car Accident (WebMD)
Back Injuries (Cedars-Sinai)
Common Injuries (CarAccidentInfo.org)
What Are the Most Common Car Accident Injuries? (FreeAdvice.com)
Types of Car Accident Injuries (FindLaw.com)
How to Survive a Car Crash (Virtual Drive)
Distracted Driving (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance (National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center)
Cervical Facet Joint Pain Treatment (Spine Universe)
All About Spinal Decompression Therapy (Spine-Health)
Seat Belts: Get the Facts (CDC)
Child Passenger Safety: Get the Facts (CDC)
Car Safety (Consumer Reports)