We have found that for most people, being in an auto accident can be very overwhelming. They are not sure what to expect physically and are not sure what the best avenues are to pursue once the physical damage becomes evident.
Of course, each individual accident and patient have their own variables but there are a few standard things to know and follow if you have been in an accident.
During the First 36-72 Hours
- Use ice only.
Your body is in shock from the trauma and it responds with inflammation. Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory. Do not use heat during the first 36 hours.
- Purchase a good ice pack.
I ONLY recommend Elasto-gel brand icepacks for several reasons:
- They are lycra covered not plastic so when you first apply them they do not feel that cold. Ice packs that are too cold cause the superficial tissue to “freeze” up to protect the body from the cold and that creates a barrier that does not allow the cold to seep down into the deeper layers of muscle. That degree of cold can also cause the muscles to tighten even further as a reaction.
- They are gel filled so they are very flexible, contouring to all the angles of the body to get the cold to all the places it’s needed.
- They come in many shapes and sizes. I personally suggest the cervical collar as the neck has the most angles and is therefore hard to fully ice with a regular ice pack shape, it Velcro’s on so you do not have to hold it in place and it’s unique shape makes it versatile to use almost anywhere else on the body.
- They do not leak if punctured and will last forever!
I would suggest purchasing at least 2 as they will not be cold again by the time you need to use again.
- Use CRYODERM:
This is a topical that you can purchase through a health professional only that can be your best friend. It does not have any of the preservatives or additives that many of the over the counter topical have and it contains arnica, boswellia and MSM all of which are great for inflammation and tissue damage, along with menthol for the pain. It is non-greasy and will not stain your clothing.
- Limit your movement for 24-36 hours.
Understand that over the next 7-14 days (possibly longer depending on the severity of the accident) the areas of the body that were damaged will start to make themselves evident. You may not feel any or all of the pain during the first few days after the accident as your body can still be in shock. That is why it is important to limit your movement for the first 24-36 hours. You may further damage soft tissue that is injured and not realize it for several more days. (It is important to keep this in mind if an insurance adjustor calls and asks how you are feeling. You may feel fine at first but then the full extent of your injuries become evident later. This may cause difficulty in getting reimbursed for any medical treatment in the future.)
- Get to your primary care physician.
You should go to see your doctor in the first 24 -36 hours to be checked out. Continue to keep them updated with any new pains or Range of Motion difficulties as they become evident, so they can document them accordingly.
- Confirm Medical Benefits availability: This involves finding out what insurance benefits are available to cover your medical treatment needs. If you have Med Pay on your policy (which we highly recommend!) you will need to make sure that your particular Insurance company covers all the treatment you plan to receive. (NOTE: Some companies in California will say that they cover Orthopedic Massage Therapy, however the caveat is that they will only cover it if performed by a Medical Doctor, Chiropractor or Physical Therapist. You will need to make sure they cover it if performed by a Licensed Orthopedic Massage Therapist.)If you do not have Med Pay and were not at fault you then want to see if the responsible party has insurance. If they do you will most likely need to retain an attorney as 3rd party insurance doesn’t usually pay out until the claim is closed. Only a few medical providers will work on a contingency basis and most will only do so if the patient has retained a Personal Injury Attorney as that is the only way to ensure payment on a lien basis.
After the First 72 Hours
- Consult a massage therapist.
After the first 72 hours you should have an initial consultation with a massage therapist trained in auto injury treatment as well as a consultation and x-rays with a chiropractor also trained in auto accident treatment. During you first couple weeks of treatment the sessions should be VERY gentle, as your body will still have residual shock and trauma and can be easily exacerbated by rough movements.
- When considering physical therapy:
Physical Therapy is an important step in the recovery process however it MUST be implemented at the proper time. The injury must be addressed FIRST before you can start stretching or strengthening the damaged tissue. If your medical doctor absolutely insists that you see a Physical Therapist in the beginning stages of your injury there are some treatments they can do that are generally safe such as heat/ice therapy, ultrasound and infrared therapy and sometimes they will perform small sessions of massage. REMEMBER: You as the patient have the right to decide what therapies you are comfortable with. Only you know your pain levels. Do not fall into thinking no pain no gain. That is the exact opposite of what is productive for your injured tissue.
- Range of motion excercises.
Typically, within a month very gentle Range Of Motion is healthy as the tissue that is injured wants to stay locked up and you will need to start to move to arrest that reaction and allow healthy tissue movement and healing.
- Obtain a good Personal Injury Attorney.
In most cases we recommend obtaining a good Personal Injury attorney as soon as possible. There are many reasons for this:
- They can field all the communications from all parties and insurance adjustors involved. This is important as sometimes the insurance adjustors can “trick” you into saying something that can make it harder to get your necessary medical treatments covered. It also will relieve you of the stress of dealing with all the communications as you are trying to heal.
- If your necessary medical treatments go above the limits you have on your personal injury policy then a settlement will have to be reached. An attorney can fight for you to ensure you are not left with any out of pocket expenses.
- Many people worry about attorneys taking a large chunk of their settlement. It has been our experience that clients that obtain an attorney walk away with more money from the settlement after the attorney takes their fee than those that tried to negotiate with the insurance companies on their own.
- Note: There are good attorneys and there are not so good attorneys. You want an attorney that is an experience trial attorney. If they are not willing and able to take your case to court then they will not be able to get the larger settlements. Hint: Do not use any attorney that is a one-man show. They generally cannot afford to go to court and so are more willing to accept the first offer made by the insurance company.
Body Fix Therapies – Your Personal Support System
It is always good to have a team of people on your side to help you through this stressful, painful period in your life. At Body Fix Therapies we have been helping people injured in auto accidents recover for over 14 years and we empathize with everything you are and will be going through.
We make it our mission to help you in every aspect, including selecting the other members of your team such as attorneys and chiropractors, even working with the rental car companies if needed. We want to make this process as easy as it can be. We are here for you 6 days a week (Monday-Saturday). Even if you just have a question, don’t hesitate to take advantage of our expertise!