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Common Car Accident Injuries: How to Treat and Prevent Them

by Dr Prem Community Writer
Common Car Accident Injuries

Accidents happen. Whether you’re at fault or you’re the victim of someone else’s negligence, a car accident can be a traumatic event — especially if you’re injured as a result. An alarming 1.25 million Americans lose their lives every year due to an automobile accident. And another 20-50 million are injured. Even if you’ve never been in a car accident, you’re sadly not safe from danger. Car accidents are more common than almost any other type of accident that leads to serious (and sometimes life-threatening) injury. The best way to avoid a car accident is to stay off the road. But this isn’t practical for most people. Between work and social obligations, the majority of Americans own at least one vehicle and spend several hours a day on the road. If you can’t avoid driving, you need to arm yourself with the information and safety tips necessary to avoid a life-changing accident. Here are some of the most common car accident injuries, as well as tips for preventing and treating them.

Whiplash

WhiplashThis is the most common injury associated with car accidents, for two reasons. One, the way the injury occurs is synonymous with the motion of being hit from behind in a vehicle and jerking forward. Second, it’s an injury that is very easy to fake. You might be wondering why anyone would do this. To put it simply — money. The person at fault for the accident could be held liable for medical and emotional expenses associated with the accident. But if you’re an honest person who was legitimately injured and suspect whiplash, here are a few things you should know.

The term whiplash actually refers to any type of muscle, ligament, or tendon injury that occurs in the neck. Because many accidents include abrupt and unexpected impact between two vehicles, drivers are often jostled forward. This can be especially forceful when the passenger is wearing a seatbelt. The belt holds your body in position while your head and heck are free to move forward or back in a jerking motion. This can strain or pull the muscles and tendons in your neck, thereby causing a condition known as whiplash. While whiplash doesn’t normally include broken bones, it can be extremely painful and take quite a while to heal.

Treatment options vary. Many victims will reduce swelling and pain using a mix of cold compresses and over the counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories. Rest is also important. This means limiting strenuous exercise or any type of sudden movements. Your doctor may recommend a collar or brace for added support. Depending on the severity of your injury, a chiropractor may help as well. Chiropractors are skilled in realigning your spine and believe that proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system helps the body heal naturally. A professional like Dr. Ricardo Lalama can help put you on the right track to recovery.

Broken Ribs

As beneficial as seat belts are in terms of keeping you safe in the event of a car accident, they can sometimes do more harm than good. Broken ribs are a common injury caused by seat belts pushing against the rib cage and chest during impact. Your ribs are also very fragile, which means that even mild impact can easily cause injury. The seat belt isn’t the only culprit when it comes to sustaining broken ribs. Being pushed forward into the steering wheel or sideways into the door can also cause a rib break or fracture. There’s no way to really prevent this type of injury and unfortunately, recovery can be long and painful. Broken ribs will prevent you from participating in sports or exercising regularly for quite some time. You can use ice and pain relievers to help ease discomfort. It’s also important to take full, deep breaths, despite the pain. This will reduce your risk of developing pneumonia. Some people believe wrapping gauze tightly around your ribcage will help keep them stable but in actuality, you should stick with loose-fitted clothing that doesn’t place added pressure on the area.

Head Injuries

Head InjuryAnother common, and very scary, injury associated with car accidents is a head injury. This can come in many forms from concussions to cuts and lacerations. Most head injuries occur during impact. Drivers (and passengers) are thrown forward, potentially smacking their heads into the windshield. This could result in something as simple as a cut or scrape or something as serious as traumatic brain injury, which might last the victim a lifetime. Concussions are fairly common and the warning signs include:

  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion

There’s no cure for a concussion other than rest and relaxation. It’s recommended that you avoid any types of screens including cell phones, television, or computers. The light from these screens stimulate your brain too much, interfering with recovery. One myth associated with concussions is that victims shouldn’t be allowed to sleep. The opposite is true. If you’ve suffered a concussion, sleeping will actually provide the rest your brain needs to recover. If someone you know has had a concussion, you don’t need to wake them up. Closely monitor them but let them sleep.

Traumatic brain injuries need to be diagnosed immediately to help prevent additional complications. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the more proactive the doctors can be. TBI (traumatic brain injuries) are classified as a disruption in normal brain function caused by a jolt, blow or bump. Treatment may include surgery, medications, and therapy.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding is one of the scariest car accident injuries due to misdiagnosis. Many people don’t realize they’re even hurt, since internal bleeding shows no immediate physical signs. Internal bleeding can be caused by blunt force trauma. This happens when you’re hit (or hit) by an object at high speed. This can cause internal bleeding and also damage blood vessels. The most common organs affected by internal bleeding are the liver and spleen. Signs you have internal bleeding include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache or stiff neck
  • Blood in your stool
  • Weakness
  • Slurred speech

These symptoms may not surface until several hours, or even days, following a car accident. Be sure to monitor them and pay close attention to how you’re feeling following a major accident. It’s recommended to allow the medical staff to examine you on scene and transport you to the hospital if they deem necessary. Refusing care might result in more serious injury and complications later on.

Back Injuries

Back InjuriesAlmost as common as whiplash, passengers in motor vehicle crashes can sustain both serious and mild back injuries. Herniated discs are one of the most common back injuries. This occurs when one or more of the vertebrae in your spine shift out of place. Sometimes, these discs rupture, causing additional complications. Herniated discs are extremely painful and can make it difficult to walk, stand up for long periods of time, find a comfortable seated and sleeping position, or perform daily tasks. The good news is that most herniated discs don’t require surgery. A mixture of rest, therapeutic exercises, and chiropractic care are often enough to help ease the symptoms of this type of back pain. In some extreme cases, surgery is required to rectify the situation.

PTSD

Most people associate PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) with an emotional or traumatic event like being deployed to war or being abused as a child. The truth is, a serious car accident is also considered a traumatic event. Especially if several people are seriously injured. If you experience a life-altering injury after a car accident, it may be difficult to mentally and emotionally handle it. Life as you know it may never be the same. Some injuries require surgery, therapy, and even amputation. If your brain function is compromised, you may be unable to return to life as you once knew it. All of these factors can cause PTSD. The best way to treat this condition – the depression and anxiety associated with it – is to seek professional help in the form of a therapist. Your doctor can recommend a therapist who specializes in post traumatic stress disorder, as it relates to a car accident or injury. Some medications may also help.

Guilt or Other Mental Trauma

Mental TraumaWhat if you walked away from the accident unscathed, but the other party wasn’t so lucky? There are times when the person in one vehicle is fine and others are gravely injured, or in especially difficult situations, killed. If you’re fortunate enough to leave the scene of an accident with only minor injuries, but know that the other parties involved lost their lives or were seriously injured, you may harbor feelings of guilt — even if the cause of the accident wasn’t your fault. This is completely normal, but it’s important to identify and handle these feelings. If not, you can easily fall into a life of depression and guilt that’s hard to break from. Be thankful that you’re healthy, instead of being mad at yourself for what happened. Understand that it was an accident and no amount of anger or hurt can undo what’s been done. A therapist can help you work through these feelings of guilt.

Car accidents are tragic, common, and sometimes, avoidable. Practicing safe driving is the first step in preventing an unnecessary tragedy. Remember, not all injuries following a car accident are physical. If you’re struggling to mentally move past the event, you may need intervention as well. Reduce your risk of suffering a life-altering injury (or causing one) by always driving safely and following traffic laws.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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