Originally posted on https://www.injuredcalltoday.com/what-doctor-to-see-after-a-car-accident/
You’ve Been Hurt. Now What?
Trauma and pain after a car accident are not only terrifying but may bring devastating injuries for the drivers involved. Additional life stress focused around finances, medical damages and mental health issues resulting from the crash can overwhelm the strongest of character. Questions about injury treatment and insurance liability create an almost unbearable uncertainty, and that’s why it’s vital to speak with the right health providers to get the answers you need.
For those misfortunate enough to be in a devastating auto collision, it’s crucial to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment by a coordinated team of physicians who can manage the different aspects of your care right away. Don’t discount your minor accident as something not worth worrying about either. Even these minor crashes may cause more severe injuries later due to delayed presentation after the shock of the event has worn off.
The biggest question many accident victims ask is what doctor or doctors do they need to see? What services do I need and which doctor provides them? Take a moment to review what doctors you might need to see after a car accident.
Your Primary Care Physician
What seems the most obvious option to receive after accident care is your primary caregiver. Surprisingly, many family doctors refuse to treat their patients for car crash-related injuries due to the scope of damage the victim sustained. If you were in an accident, your doctor might refer you to a specialist like a chiropractor or an orthopedist to treat you instead. This is a wise decision on your general practitioner’s part because he or she may not have enough specialized training to evaluate you appropriately. A specialist will keep your family doctor in the loop so your medical records are consistent and everyone is on the same page regarding your care.
Services your primary care physician can offer you after an auto accident include:
- Referrals for further treatment
- Documentation of your stated injuries
- General pain management advice
- Follow-up care as recommended by other referred doctors
Another reason your family physician may decline to treat your car accident injuries has to do with processing any costs through your car insurance claim. This is something many every day doctor offices cannot do for their patients since many auto insurance companies outright deny claims at first. Family health offices do not have the manpower or time to dispute a payment for car crash injuries.
Chiropractors offer a variety of spine-related treatment options for victims of car accidents. Their education in the treatment and diagnosis of spinal and surrounding soft tissue injuries make them an important part of your recovery.
When visiting a chiropractor, you may have to get X-rays of your spine taken, submit a complete background history on your health, and have a comprehensive physical exam. Your chiropractic care provider will then give you an appropriate diagnosis of your injuries and create a care plan to get you back to health. They are central to your care after an auto accident and will refer you as needed for other service providers like neurologists and orthopaedists.
Your chiropractor may request some of the following tests to finalize your diagnosis:
- Cat Scan
By coordinating with outside caregivers, your chiropractor will create a care plan that thoroughly explains your conditions and what methods of treatments are best for your injuries. They can also include the degree of your injuries, any permanent damage you have suffered and what sources of ongoing care you will need.
Orthopedic care involves the musculoskeletal system, and its physicians offer a wide variety of treatment options that include surgical and nonsurgical techniques. Using an orthopedist after an accident isn’t that unusual after a car crash because of the seriousness of injuries one gets. Getting proper care is critical to your recovery so don’t hesitate to speak with an orthopedic doctor if your injuries require it.
If your chiropractor has evaluated your test results and recommends a surgical solution, you will likely receive a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who will evaluate your injuries further. By using this collaborative approach, your doctors ensure the best possible outcome for your care. If your orthopedist agrees and recommends surgery, your chiropractor or primary care physician will receive a written recommendation and develop your treatment plan.
Many who visit an orthopedist for care after a car wreck suffers from one of the following common injuries:
- Hand and finger fractures
- Torn ligaments like the ACL or MCL
- Herniated spinal disc
- Fractured hip
- Broken ribs and/or clavicle
- Tendonitis of the shoulder
To discover any of the above injuries or causes of other symptoms you might have, your orthopedist may order specialized tests to reach a conclusive diagnosis. Some of these tests include:
- CT scan with or without a special dye
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Flexibility testing
- Muscle testing
- Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
- Physical exam
- Range of motion testing
- Stress testing of ligaments and tendons
Referrals to an orthopedic specialist aren’t necessary, but many choose to speak with their family or chiropractic care physicians first. If you get an initial evaluation from an orthopedist, it is also possible that they have chiropractic and physiatric care available within their practice which enables a consistent treatment experience and record.
After an accident, it isn’t uncommon to have delayed symptoms show up a week or even a month later. The initial trauma of an auto crash causes some victims to shake off neurological injury symptoms as just temporary. When signs of trauma like headaches or nerve pain in the extremities appear a short time later, it’s imperative to include a neurologist in your treatment plan.
Neurology is a broad branch of medicine that includes treatment of your entire nervous system. Your brain, spine, and even the nerves in the tips of your fingers fall under a neurologist’s treatment specialty. Professionals in this field, called neurologists, receive specialized training to recognize early the symptoms of nerve-injuries and immediately treat the issue before it becomes more serious.
While neurological issues are sometimes tricky to identify and present in different forms, there are several key symptoms to take note of no matter how minor they may seem at first.
Common neurological symptoms after a car accident include:
- Headaches that are minor and/or severe
- Tingling and/or numbness in an extremity
- Loss of power or weakness in an extremity
To recognize your signs of neurological damage, you can expect to give a complete medical history and undergo a physical exam that checks all of your senses. You may have a nerve conduction study performed if it appears you are having issues with weakness in the limbs.
The intensity of your discomfort may range widely throughout the week or even just the span of a few hours.
Never take these symptoms for granted and discuss these issues with your chiropractor or primary physician right away so you can get a referral for a neurological evaluation. Your doctor understands that injuries require different fields of medicine for effective treatment, and will work closely with your neurologist to create a personalized treatment plan to address your health situation.
Though their titles sound similar, physiatrists and physical therapists play different roles in the physical rehabilitation of their patients. Physiatrists have completed the rigors of medical school plus at least four years of training as a resident before going on to create the care plans that physical therapists will perform.
After a vehicle collision, patients may speak with a physiatrist to assess their injuries and develop a therapy plan to use with the physical therapist later. Doctors in physiatrics collaborate closely with orthopedic and neurological physicians to give an accident victim appropriate care for their trauma.
Managing a patient’s rehabilitation process is a key role of the physiatrist as is their judgment that a patient is medically able enough to participate in a physical therapy care plan. While they strive to use the least invasive methods as possible, if your physiatrist feels you possibly need surgery or other corrective procedures, a collaboration with your other doctors will meet this need.
Typical injuries that physiatrists treat car crash victims for are:
- Chronic headaches
- Muscle strain
- Spine and neck injuries
- Sprains of the extremities
Physiatrists may include chiropractic and pain management care within their practice. This convenient combination of services cuts down on the number of doctors you may need to see and appointments to schedule. It also guarantees your care plan is standardized so that there isn’t any confusion about your current needs, medications or treatment history.
Pain Management Specialists
Pain management specialists play an essential role in the recovery process for many accident sufferers. Their specialized training in diagnosing and treating pain disorders resulting from car accidents is necessary for injured persons who require managed pain care for more extended periods. Treatment plans generally focus on a patient’s quality of life and ability to perform day to day functions comfortably.
Neurologists, chiropractors, and other specialized care physicians will refer their patients to a pain management doctor for ongoing pain relief. Patients give a complete family medical history, lifestyle history, and medical history before their physical exam. Once examined, the pain specialist will create a managed plan of treatment and conduct regular follow-ups to adjust as needed.
If a car accident victim has a chronic headache due to a complicated whiplash injury, the pain management specialist will help by prescribing a variety of pain relief methods to help reduce or manage the associated discomfort. Doing this aids other treating physicians with the recovery process so progress towards healing may begin.
Conventional pain relief methods used by a specialist are:
- Prescription pain medication
- Steroidal Injections to reduce inflammation
- Therapeutic nerve blocks
- Implanted pumps or stimulators
- Physical therapy
- Injections into muscular trigger point areas
- Neurological or orthopedic surgery referral
- Relaxation and meditation
With the development of a care plan which focuses on the reduction and relief of accident-related pain, these physicians coordinate with your other health providers to meet all your treatment needs.
Car accident victims usually visit a physical therapist after their primary physician, physiatrist, chiropractor, or orthopedic surgeon has diagnosed and created a care plan for treatment. Physical therapists have specialized training to help patients develop strength, reduce pain and inflammation, and recover range of motion after physical trauma. During the recovery time after orthopedic surgery, a physical therapist will help you regain mobility without overdoing things or possibly re-injuring yourself.
Millions of people trust the non-invasive methods employed by physical therapy to help them get their body back to normal after traumatic injury. Injuries that necessitated neurological or orthopedic surgery experience faster healing times with minimized discomfort when working with a physical therapist. Professionals in this field understand that building strength in the body reduces not only encourages your natural healing process but dramatically improves your emotional state when seeing personal progress.
Typical exam or testing requests you might have ordered by a physical therapist include:
- Test your flexibility
- Range of motion testing
- Examination of muscles and strength
- Physical exam
- X-Rays of specific painful joint areas
- Check the amount of stress certain ligaments and tendons can handle
The other doctors that assist in your care after an auto accidentcollaborates with therapists to ensure you do everything possible to heal. They track your progress, update your medical claim to include the costs, and act as the eyes and ears of for your surgeon on the effectiveness of your surgical procedure. By incorporating physical therapy in your pattern of care, you network all of your other care providers together for the best possible communication and treatment experience possible.
Don’t Assume It’s No Big Deal – See a Doctor
Auto collisions result in numerous types of injuries that can leave a victim completely debilitated or result in minor damages. The symptoms could take weeks to appear after a crash, so it’s vital that victims not assume they are okay or that it wasn’t a big deal. Speak with your primary physician for a referral instead of trying to tough it out; regular treatment improves one’s chances of recovery.
Other healthcare providers, you may visit for treatment after suffering injuries from a car accident could include:
- Massage Therapist
- Surgical specialists
During the course of your auto claim, it’s important to form a collaboration of physicians who dedicate themselves to your well-being, comfort, and recovery. By choosing providers who belong to the same care network or offer a collaborative approach with other offices, you will receive the best options available with uniform treatment experience.
Any of the doctors mentioned in this article will have the expertise and treatment network available to begin your care right away. This can only happen though if you get checked out as soon as possible after the initial collision. Any type of sign or symptom of what you believe to be an accident-related injury deserves evaluation so that you can prevent potential complications on down the road.