Auto accidents, also known as motor vehicle accidents or car accidents, cause traumatic injuries and pain to the body due to abrupt changes in momentum during the crash. The extent of injury depends on many variables, including the type of accident, collision speed, use and deployment of vehicle safety mechanisms, patient factors, and some amount of chance. For example, auto accidents in which the front of the vehicle collides with another object are likely to cause injuries to the front of the body, as the body’s momentum will carry it forward even as the vehicle stops moving. High-speed collisions are more likely to cause severe injury but wearing a seatbelt and the successful deployment of airbags helps reduce damage. Injuries such as bruises, broken bones, muscle or joint strains, and concussions can occur, as well as more serious internal injuries.
Pain following an auto accident can be a result of many different conditions. Musculoskeletal injuries that can occur include:
- Broken bone
- Herniated disc
- Whiplash injury: a neck injury caused by sudden backward and forward movement of the head
- Neck, shoulder, and/or back pain, soreness, or stiffness
- Torn or injured ligaments
- Concussion or headache due to head injury
Treatment for auto accident pain should be tailored to the specific symptoms and diagnosis of each patient. Certain injuries will require surgery, followed by physical therapy, while some can be treated with home remedies such as ice packs, NSAIDs, and rest. When physical therapy is indicated, patient outcomes improve with earlier intervention. Treatment for a herniated disc can include deep tissue massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, muscle re-education, and orthotic management. Treatment for whiplash includes hot and cold therapy, ultrasound, and therapeutic exercises. Serious injuries with a recovery timeline of several weeks or months may require strength exercises to prevent muscle atrophy.