Even if you’re a careful driver, it’s highly likely you’ll get into at least one auto accident in your lifetime. Esurance reports 77 percent of drivers will be in at least one crash. So for most of us, it’s not a matter of if – but when.
An auto accident can be incredibly disorienting, stressful, expensive, and unfortunately for many of us, painful. But we can take some of those stressors and some of that pain off your plate.
Here’s a look at what to do after an accident, including our in-house auto accident checklist to follow to make sure you have all your bases covered.
We see a lot of people who have been in a car accident in our office – both people recently in an accident, as well as people who are still dealing with the pain from one even years later. Fortunately, this is an area of our expertise. In fact, Roxanne’s residency was with a chiropractor who specializes in auto accidents, so she has been highly trained in this field from the beginning. We help people from diagnosis to rehab and every step in between.
Most Common Injuries After an Auto Accident
The most common injuries we see after an auto accident are:
- A cervical sprain or strain with tears in the ligaments or muscles
- Low back pain that’s similar to whiplash but in a different part of the spine
- Extremity injuries (like knees hit the dashboard or hand/shoulder/wrist injuries from the steering wheel)
Auto Accident Checklist – What To Do After An Accident
We have an auto accident checklist in our office; take one of the flashcards and keep it in your glove compartment to help guide you through the steps. Here’s a quick look at that checklist:
- Check on all passengers and drivers
- Call the police
- Exchange information with the other party
- Take pictures
- Document everything; keep good records
- Visit a doctor
Often, people find themselves in significant shock after an auto accident and don’t feel pain immediately. That’s why we recommend visiting a chiropractor quickly, even if you feel fine. It’s best to have a full exam, because sometimes, we put people in provoking positions or movements to test tissues, ligaments, or muscles that you might not realize are injured because you haven’t needed to use them in that way yet. Plus, it’s helpful to have a baseline for your body, in case other problems pop up in a few weeks or months.
Your Chiropractic Visit For Auto Accident Care
A visit to our office after an auto accident is different from a normal visit. We don’t require X-rays for every patient, but we do take X-rays for traumatic events, including car accidents. There are several reasons for this.
First, we want to rule out any broken bones. But we also look for ligament damage. Even if you already had X-rays in the emergency room, they rarely look at the ligaments.
We complete a full, special series of X-rays on the neck to identify whiplash. This series includes six X-rays while we bring you through a range of motion. By comparison, a normal cervical X-ray shows three different views, but we add in extra angles that stress the ligaments to show if a ligament is torn – a common issue with whiplash. Typically, a torn ligament in the neck will heal. But occasionally, it can cause permanent damage, so it’s useful to have that documented to watch how that changes throughout your treatment.
We also complete the same, thorough exam that we bring all clients through, but we make sure every issue is well documented. Unfortunately, a big part of an auto accident is that someone is at fault and you have to work with insurance. We want to make sure you don’t have to pay for anything you don’t need to.
Healing your body is one part of auto accident care, but the legal and paperwork side is another part.
When you come to your first appointment, make sure you bring your auto insurance care, claim number, and adjustor’s name.
Chiropractic Care for an Auto Accident
After the thorough exam and history of your conditions before and after the auto accident, we tailor treatment based on the findings.
Your treatment will follow three stages. First, the acute stage. This is when you’re typically really sensitive, so everything is gentle. The body is in shock and pain, so we use gentle, palliative care to get the body out of that mode.
Then we can move into the subacute phase, which is still tender and painful, but we are able to touch certain spots. You may have less bruising in this pain. We can add in more therapeutic treatments to start to help you heal, not just reduce the pain.
Treatment options may include:
- Manual adjusting
- Low force adjusting
- Activator Technique
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization
- Functional dry needling
- Massage therapy
The last state is rehab. Once the pain is gone, we bring you through rehabilitation to make sure the pain stays away, the muscles are strong, and you have no residual issues. Often, attorneys and adjusters try to rush this stage to wrap up the case quickly. But once you settle, you can’t get your care reimbursed anymore. So our goal is to make sure you are fully back to your pre-injury status with no lingering problems before we designate the care complete.
The length of your treatment depends on each person, but the average care is usually about three months. Even the easiest healing with one minor muscle tear can still take six to eight weeks for a full recovery. Add in rehab, and you’re looking at three months.
Why Is Auto Accident Care Important?
Even if you end up in the ER, it’s still important to visit a chiropractor after an auto accident. The ER’s job is to essentially make sure you’re not dying. Did you puncture a lung? Do you have a significant fracture they need to stabilize? Do you have a life-threatening condition? The ER is there to triage. But the injuries from a car accident are much broader than that and not always life or death.
Your primary care doctor can be helpful, especially with referrals, but they don’t deal with auto accidents a ton – especially if you want to go through auto insurance or an attorney. Many doctors won’t accept auto insurance and will suggest you go elsewhere. They’re also not necessarily equipped to treat musculoskeletal issues.
A physical therapist can definitely be valuable – but a PT doesn’t really do diagnoses. They can aid in treatment, but that’s often built off the reports from your doctor. We’ve seen patients who went to their primary care doctor who didn’t catch a disc herniation and referred them to a PT who suggested exercises that made the herniation worse.
A chiropractor fills in the gaps between those services.
Auto Accident Care At Comprehensive Chiropractic
At Comprehensive Chiropractic, we can bill your insurance if a claim has been made, and we accept Med-Pay, an option offered by your auto insurance policy that pays medical bills after a car accident. Med-Pay also covers passengers in your vehicle. We can walk you through the ins and outs of Med-Pay that many people don’t even know about.
Ultimately, we know the system, and we can help you navigate the process. In addition to your physical care, when you work with us, you’ve got someone on your side to guide you and explain all the options.
We also have a strong web of referrals and other providers, depending on what you need – including personal injury attorneys that we know and trust.
Give us a call at 720-458-0487 or email us with any further questions about our Chiropractic Care for auto injuries.