Most of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives. When it’s severe, like an injury after an auto accident, it can leave you in serious pain with no way to drive, work or sometimes even stand up straight.
Falls, heavy lifting and vehicle accidents cause most cases of acute and subacute back and neck injuries. Acute means it comes on suddenly and resolves relatively quickly–anywhere from a few days to a few months. If you don’t treat back pain aggressively in the beginning, it can become chronic, which means nagging back pain for several months to up to a year or more.
To make sure you get back to work and back to doing the things you love as quickly as possible after an auto accident, we recommend taking serious action immediately. Not everyone responds to treatments the same way, which means you may have to visit a few different specialists to find the best solution. It’s worth the hassle and extra copays to find relief from a painful condition.
Step one: Diagnosis
When you visit your primary care physician, he or she will likely ask lots of questions about the accident, the severity of symptoms and the nature of your pain. The doc may also conduct neurologic tests to pinpoint the cause.
Is it a slipped disc, a herniated disc or a fracture? To confirm or deny certain conditions, your doctor may order an X-Ray, CT scan or an MRI.
Step two: Immediately after injury
Depending on the nature of your injury, your doctor will likely recommend cold and/or heat packs. Generally, cold helps ease pain and reduce inflammation, and heat loosens the muscles, tendons and ligaments. An easy trick is to use packs of frozen peas for an ice pack. To create moist heat, take hot baths, use a hot water bottle, or heat a wet towel in the microwave for two minutes.
Your doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or an anti-inflammatory such as Advil or Aleve. Don’t take anything without consulting your doctor, because even over-the-counter medications interact with certain prescription drugs and cause side effects.
Whatever you do, don’t lie in bed all day with a back injury. Bed rest alone may make back pain worse and can lead to loss of muscle strength and blood clots. Keep moving as often as possible without exacerbating your injury. You’ll maintain flexibility and keep blood flowing, both of which help speed healing.
Step three: The specialists
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. A good PT uses any number of modalities to get you on the road to recovery. Those include:
• Manual therapy (massage).
• A program to strengthen the back and core muscles, which support your spine.
• Stretching exercises for flexibility.
• Advice on maintaining proper posture.
The PT will likely give you a home program to follow. Follow that program–home exercise programs can reduce the rate of recurring back pain and decrease the need for additional care.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy often provides short-term pain relief. The device sends electric current through the skin using electrodes placed on the body.
Chiropractic care involves spinal manipulation or adjustments to stimulate the nerves and surrounding tissue. Many chiropractic patients report improvement and relief.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from stress to colds to pain. The practice involves tiny needles inserted at strategic points which stimulate nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue.
All this care seems like a hassle, but the result–faster healing–is worth it.
If you have a high-deductible health plan and worry about the cost, you have options. Do you have medical payments coverage on your auto insurance policy? If so, that will help pay the bills.
If you don’t have medical payments coverage, know that some medical providers will defer payments until you settle with insurance companies. If the accident was not your fault, you may be able to recoup costs from the other driver.
If you work with a personal injury lawyer, he or she may be able to negotiate discounts with your healthcare providers on top of obtaining a fair settlement.
Call our office right away for a free consultation.