If you have ever been in an auto accident, no matter the severity, you probably know about the aches and pains that occur in the days following. Even a minor accident, such as a low speed collision, can leave you with a substantial amount of pain as a result. Some of the most common injuries after these sorts of minor to moderate collisions are called soft tissue injuries. Things like a sore or stiff neck or back, headaches, minor scraps or cuts, bruises, and the like are all commonly overlooked results of an auto accident.
Here are some of the most common types of soft tissue injuries and their respective treatments:
Sprains and strains are two of the most common types of injuries associated with auto accidents. Whereas a sprain results from a stretch and/or tear in a ligament (the strong tissue connecting bones together at the joints), a strain results from the same stretch and/or tear but in regard to muscles and tendons connecting muscle to bone. Both injuries present in much the same way, with pain, soreness, bruising, swelling, inflammation, and decreased range of motion. In both cases, the injury can range from mild (slight stretching of the ligaments, muscles, or tendons), to severe (complete tears).
If you are diagnosed with a sprain/strain in the emergency department immediately following a collision, these could be signs of more serious neck/back injuries that should be further investigated if you continue to feel pain.
Neck and back injuries are a common result of an auto accident. Here are a few of the most common back and neck injuries that result from minor to moderate auto accidents:
Spinal fractures often result from high-impact trauma. Spinal fractures come in several different shapes and forms and require a medical professional to diagnose the correct fracture pattern. As a general rule, a spinal fracture relates to an abnormality of the spinal vertebrae. Some of the most common types of spinal fractures include: compression fractures, axial burst fractures, chance fractures, and fracture dislocations.
Imaging is required to examine the location, type, and severity of the fracture.
Treatment for spinal fractures will vary depending on the type and location of the fracture. The most common treatments include bracing to avoid further injury; injections, often in the form of an epidural, to help the muscle heal around the spine; and sometimes surgery to correct the abnormality. Each method of treatment is injury-specific and carries with it its own risk.
A herniated disc (also known as a bulged, slipped, or ruptured disc) is another spinal injury, often occurring when the vertebrae of the spine are compressed together, causing the disc separating the vertebrae to shift out of place. These are usually diagnosed through advanced imaging like MRIs.
Herniations are generally treated with non-surgical treatment. These treatments include NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory medications), physical therapy, epidural injections (a/k/a cortisone shots), and ablations. Radiofrequency ablations are where the ends of pinched or damaged nerve is heated up by radiofrequency, thereby decreasing the pain transmission from that particular nerve ending. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
Spondylolisthesis generally occurs as a result of another injury, like a herniated disc, that causes a disc or vertebrae to shift out of place, in turn putting pressure on the nerves surrounding the spine.
Many times, this can also occur simply as a result of aging or wear and tear on the body.
Depending on the cause and symptoms, most cases area treated with mild treatment like physical therapy and chiropractic care. Spondylolisthesis can also be treated with ablations, just as a herniated disc may be, in order to reduce pain.
Whiplash is really just a sprain or strain occurring in the neck, but because it happens so often, it gets its own category. Whiplash often occurs when the head and neck are forced to move back and forth or side to side in a violent manner, like a sudden stop during a collision. It will often present itself as any other sprain or strain, with soreness, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and headaches all being very common symptoms.
Whiplash injuries can be treated just as any other sprain or strain, but because this injury occurs in connection with the spinal cord, many specialists will conduct imaging tests like MRIs or x-rays to rule out other causes of the pain or discomfort. In cases where the injury persists, injections may be proper to ensure a complete recovery.
Head injuries can occur as a result of whiplash, even when there is no direct impact to the head. Head injuries are a common and often overlooked injury resulting from auto accidents. The sudden blow of two vehicles colliding can easily cause the driver or passengers to strike his or her head on the steering wheel, dash, or side window, or can cause a concussion from the sudden jerking movement even without direct impact to the head. This can result in a head injury like a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can cause lasting cognitive effects if left untreated or if improperly treated. Read more about traumatic brain injuries here.
Also known as a bruise, a contusion is probably the MOST common soft tissue injury occurring in an auto accident. A contusion is a type of bleeding under the skin, where tiny blood vessels called capillaries burst and bleed into the surrounding tissue. As a result of a contusion, you may experience soreness, swelling, and/or discoloration of the skin in the surrounding area.
While most contusions are actually very minor injuries, some can be serious, and even life-threatening. Contusions commonly occur in the soft tissues and muscles directly under the skin, or sometimes even on bones, and while the pain they cause may seem serious, most will heal on their own and require no treatment. On the other hand, internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs can also be bruised and may require serious medical attention.
Most bruises can be treated with over the counter pain medications, ice, and rest. Other, more serious, contusions, like those that occur to the internal organs may require medical treatment. This is because a contusion can affect the functioning of an internal organ, and, when something as important as a lung is bruised, this can have grave repercussions if left untreated.
We’re all familiar with scrapes and cuts. These often occur in a minor accident when glass breaks, the seatbelt tightens around your waist or across your chest, or maybe if you hit something within the car as a result of the collision. Most of these are minor and will heal on their own if kept clean and dry. Some cuts may be serious enough for stitches or may require bandaging. If you develop scarring from lacerations as a result of a collision, make sure to document the healing process with photographs for your potential personal injury claim.
Even minor injuries, if left untreated, can become much more severe and may cause more pain in the future. Additionally, if you try to wait out the pain, the insurance company may deny your claim, arguing that the injury resulted from something other than the accident.
For this reason, even after a minor crash, it’s never a bad idea to consult an experienced personal injury attorney like Bethany L. Schneider of Schneider Injury Law to ensure you are receiving adequate treatment for your injuries. Bethany has years of experience in personal injury law and can help ensure that you are adequately cared for by the proper medical professionals in order to maximize the value of your case.
If you have been in an auto accident, even a minor one, please contact Schneider Injury Law for a free consultation by phone (404) 800-3060, or e-mail Bethany directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation and case assessment.