I get this question asked many times, family gatherings, parties, professional meetings, etc. What should I do after I get in an accident? Well, typically people think of their vehicle. How will I go to work? Who will pick up my child? The car is only 6 months old, can they fix it? This is a logical concern because getting your car damaged takes us out of our routine, you know, school, work, play. We need transportation and let's face it, people have an affection for their vehicles. They dress them up, customize them, have luxuries in the car like heated seats, satellite radio, etc. We don't what to go without. So yes, you need to have your car fixed and since many people DO NOT feel bad right after they get in a car accident, getting your car fixed is what people usually do. But.....after an accident stiffness, pain, decreased range of motion all slowly progress until you need to do something about it. If your injury wasn't severe enough to go to the hospital at the time of the accident, now you want to call a doctor. But not just any doctor, you need a trauma qualified chiropractor. Why? Well when you go to your primary care doctor, the typical treatment is a muscle relaxant, pain reliever and physical therapy. Decent treatment, but not the best. From over 25 years of experience, most of the time the muscle relaxants don't work, and if they do, they make people tired. I recommend that these be used only at night to help you sleep because the pain will keep you awake. Second, doctors are reluctant to give pain relievers because of the opioid epidemic so they are now recommending over the counter pain relievers like Advil. Again, from what I have experienced, these give minor pain relief. Therapy is good but that should come not at the beginning of your treatment, but at the middle, or end. Initially we want to get the pain and swelling down in the areas that are affected. Most commonly, the neck, low back and shoulder. I should interject here, many people take a HOT shower or use a heating pad because it feels good however, heat on a acute injury will make it worse. Any injury occurring within 6 weeks is considered acute. Subacute, 7 weeks to 6 months, and chronic anything after 6 months. Do not use heat !
Since most car accidents are injuries of connective tissue, we want to decrease pain, swelling and increase the range of motion of the affected joints as soon as possible. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to months. As the pain is decreasing, we want to incorporate some light stretching and some simple exercises. Putting a joint though it's range of motion helps healing and avoids scar tissue formation. As the pain subsides we incorporate chiropractic manipulation to the spine to mobilize the joints and get stuck joints moving again. The joints have pain sensitive nerves that transmit pain impulses to the brain. When the joints are opened up, the nerves stop sending pain impulses to the spinal cord and ultimately the brain. Your pain will decrease naturally.
As the pain decreases more, exercises are ramped up. If you do not do rehabilitation after an accident, scar tissue can form resulting in decreased range of motion of the muscles and muscles that are shortened cannot put a joint through it's proper range of motion. It takes only 6 months before degenerative changes show up on imaging of the spine.
So, to summarize what you need to do in the first 12 hours after you're involved in a motor vehicle crash:
1) call a trauma trained chiropractor. You can see my credentials here:
using a trauma trained chiropractor gives you a doctor that correlates causality with bodily injury and bodily injury with functional loss. This gives the trauma trained chiropractor a accurate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan to get the patient better, and also prepares the patient and their attorney for the medicolegal arena. Poor note and documentation will sink a personal injury case !
Even if you are not hurting now, chances are, somewhere days or weeks later you can experience symptoms. It's good to at least get a baseline evaluation performed.
2) get a lawyer-lawyers are advocates for the injured party. They negotiate with the insurance company to get your car repaired, get your healthcare bills paid and recoup any lost wages from being off of work due to the injury.
3) get your car repaired (if you can). Sometime cars are totaled and beyond repair. If so, you'll need to get a loaner until you get recouped for your loss.
4) always apply ice to the injured area, never put heat on a acute injury.
5) if you have been in a auto accident and are in the Chicagoland area like: Chicago, Elmhurst, Villa Park, Lombard, Bensenville, Stone Park, Northlake, Melrose Park, Berkeley, Bellwood, Hillside, Westchester and Oak Brook and are experiencing headaches, neck pain, low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, chest/rib pain, dizziness, blurred vision, jaw pain or ringing in the ears, call the Auto Accident Pain Relief Center of Illinois 24/7 at 800-862-5914.