Every year, more than three million Americans are injured in auto accidents. These injuries range from mild cases of whiplash to life-changing traumatic brain injuries. For the purposes of this article, we’re mostly going to be focusing on injuries that fall closer to the former end of the scale, as these are the most common. As you recover from car crash injuries, you may grow restless and return to work or exercise too soon, which can cause further damage to your body.
Whether it was a fender bender or a multi-car pileup on the highway, many Americans will be injured in a car accident in their lifetimes. Hopefully, an annoying case of mild whiplash is all you have to worry about. However, if you have been injured in a car crash, then it’s important not to minimize your injury. Listen to your body and any pain signals you notice in the days and weeks after an accident. Then, give yourself the time and space to heal.
In this post, we’re going to discuss some important steps you can take to recover from car crash injuries.
This is probably the injury most commonly associated with car crashes. In fact, this injury is proof positive that the human body didn’t evolve to travel inside steel cages at upwards of 70 miles per hour. When those steel cages suddenly stop, crash into each other, or strike stationary objects, severe injuries can occur.
Whiplash is a type of neck injury most often caused by rear- and side-impact crashes. It’s caused when the neck suddenly snaps forward and backward, like a whip, and it can be quite painful. Whiplash pain is not always immediately apparent, but you will usually notice the first signs with 12 to 36 hours.
Common whiplash symptoms include stiffness, neck pain, pain that spreads from the neck to the shoulders, headaches, and loss of mobility in the neck.
If your whiplash symptoms include confusion, inability to focus, dizziness, or bleeding, then you may also have a concussion. That means you should see a doctor immediately.
Fortunately, treatment for whiplash is really straightforward: rest and over-the-counter pain medication is usually all that is needed. Immediately following the accident, it is important to rest your body For the next week or two, avoid strenuous activity that involves your neck and shoulder muscles. For pain management, your over-the-counter painkiller of choice should be sufficient. You may also benefit from applying heat wraps or ice packs, or both, to the affected area.
Many people only think of physical injuries such as whiplash after a car crash; however, anxiety can be a very real and painful reaction to a car accident. Too often, the psychological effects of an accident are ignored completely. If the crash was especially terrifying, or if someone you care about was injured or killed, then anxiety is a perfectly natural reaction to a traumatic event. As you recover from car crash injuries, mental health should be part of the healing process.
If you are feeling anxious when you get behind the wheel of a car, don’t ignore these feelings. Give yourself permission to stay out of the driver’s seat altogether if that’s what you need to recover. Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about these new feelings. In time, your comfort level behind the wheel should slowly rise.
No one wants to hurt their face, which is as easily bruised as our pride. Cuts, bruises, black eyes, and mouth injuries are all common following a car accident, and you may even get stitches. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may need to follow up with a specialist such as an oral surgeon. For more general injuries, follow basic first aid best practices. Keep lacerations clean and change bandages as needed.
Seatbelts save lives, literally. However, like airbags, in the process of saving your life, they may cause other injuries. Typically, seatbelts cause injuries to the neck, collarbone, ribs, or, in rare cases, internal organ damage.
Like whiplash, you may not notice these injuries right away. After a car accident, look for changes in bowel movement, blood in your stool or urine, coughing or vomiting blood, or unexplained pain in your digestive system. These symptoms could all indicate you are suffering from a delayed seat belt injury that requires emergency care.
Seatbelts can also cause minor injuries, including bruising where the seatbelt touches the body. While the swelling, pain, and discoloration can be uncomfortable, it should resolve in a few days to a week. Again, over-the-counter pain medication should be sufficient to treat seat belt bruises.
When you need to recover from car crash injuries, patience and vigilance are important. Give yourself the time and space to properly heal rather than rushing back to work or sports practice. You won’t recover from car crash injuries overnight, so listen to your body and try not to rush the healing process.