Common Orthopedic Injuries After a Car Accident
In 2020, there were 190,783 crashes in the state of New Jersey. There were 327,390 vehicle crashes in the state of New York in the same year. Not every collision results in injury, but many do. Car accidents cause various injuries, but some of the most common are orthopedic injuries.
An orthopedic injury is any injury to the musculoskeletal system. It involves your joints and bones.
Some of these injuries happen over time. Repetitive motion, sports injuries, and age can cause damage to the tendons, nerves, ligaments and bones that comprise the musculoskeletal system. However, most orthopedic injuries result from trauma such as a fall or car accident.
Orthopedic injuries include:
While many of these injuries, like ACL tears and overuse injury, are common orthopedic injuries in sports medicine, others are sustained in car accidents. These types of injuries are often easy to distinguish because they are painful and disruptive. Severe pain, swelling, bruising, and loss of motion range are common symptoms.
However, it is still possible to sustain an orthopedic injury without having any symptoms. It’s a good idea to see a car accident doctor after an accident — just in case.
Car accidents can cause trauma to the body and result in orthopedic injuries. Here are some of the most common injuries for which you may need to see a car accident doctor.
Whiplash is an injury many people associate with a car accident. It happens when the neck moves quickly backward and forward. You may also hear medical professionals describe it as a neck sprain or strain. Rear-end collisions are mainly responsible for whiplash injuries, though they can certainly happen in other types of crashes.
Whiplash can range from mild to severe. The injury’s severity depends on how badly the accident affected the muscles, ligaments and nerves in the neck. Symptoms can include:
A car accident orthopedic doctor can sometimes diagnose whiplash by performing a physical exam and asking the patient questions. Sometimes he or she will order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computed tomography (CT) scan to take a closer look at the head, neck, and shoulders.
Treatment depends on the injury’s severity. Common whiplash treatments include:
A mild case of whiplash may last a few days or weeks. Most people recover within two to three months. Other cases may last for months or even years. It’s hard to know how long symptoms will last, so it’s good to have a car accident orthopedic doctor examine you right away if you think you suffer from whiplash.
A fracture happens when a bone breaks partially or entirely. An open fracture is an exposed bone. It occurs when a broken bone goes through the skin or a deep wound exposes it. A closed fracture is a broken bone under intact skin. A stress fracture causes multiple tiny cracks in the bone.
Trauma from a fall or accident is the most common cause of fractures. They occur when a bone has more force applied to it than it can absorb. Bones are weakest when they are twisted. A direct blow or pressure can cause a fracture.
A fracture often brings about the following symptoms:
A car accident doctor can diagnose a fracture with tests and a physical exam. He or she may order X-rays, MRI, or CT scan to observe the fracture.
The methods of treating a fracture depend on the severity and location of the injury. Sometimes surgery is necessary to put rods, pins or screws in the broken bone. In other cases, the doctor applies a splint or cast to immobilize the area. This step allows the bone to stay in place and grow back together. The doctor may also use traction to pull muscles and tendons in place to prevent motion and align the fractured bone.
Fractures heal in an average of six to eight weeks. However, the timeframe varies greatly depending on the fracture’s type and location. A hand or wrist fracture may take only four weeks to heal while a leg fracture can take months.
A dislocation happens when an accident pulls or forces a bone from its natural position. Most of the time, it occurs in the larger joints, such as the hip or shoulder. However, dislocations can also take place in the thumb or fingers. Any dislocation can cause a lot of pain. Shoulder dislocation can often be easily fixed.
Symptoms of a dislocated bone include:
A doctor can usually diagnose these types of orthopedic injuries by examining the area and asking questions. The patient may also need an X-ray so that the doctor can see the injury’s severity.
A doctor can often manipulate the joint to push the bone back into place. After the procedure, the patient may need pain medication and rest while the area heals. Physical therapy can also help the injured joint get stronger.
If the injury caused torn ligaments, bones or tendons, the patient may require surgery to repair the damage.
Most of the time, patients recover completely from a dislocation. The length of recovery can vary from a few weeks to months depending on the affected joint and the injury’s severity.
A sprain takes place when force or trauma pulls ligaments into an unnatural position. This force results in torn ligaments.
A sprain patient may notice symptoms such as:
A car accident doctor can diagnose a sprain by performing an exam and asking the patient questions about the injury. Sometimes, a doctor orders an X-ray to check for broken bones.
The doctor may also order a supportive device such as a brace. The patient may wear the device for a specified time, usually a couple of weeks. Physical therapy, stretching and range-of-motion exercises can also help the sprained area get stronger during the recovery period.
Many times, shoulder impingements result from repeated stress on the joint. However, an accident or injury can also cause impingement. It happens when the tendons and muscles in the shoulder rub against the bone.
Impingement is a shoulder injury that causes symptoms such as:
A doctor usually begins diagnosis by asking the patient questions about the affected area. He or she may also ask the patient to perform a series of motions while checking the shoulder’s movement. Sometimes, a car accident orthopedic doctor orders an X-ray to rule out other conditions.
A shoulder impingement needs lots of rest. The patient should avoid moving or straining the shoulder while the joint heals. An ice pack can also reduce swelling and stiffness. Physical therapy can help the shoulder impingement regain strength and range of motion.
In more severe cases, the patient may require surgery, especially if the rotator cuff tears.
Many shoulder impingements heal within three to six months. Severe cases may require more time for complete recovery, though the patient may be able to return to normal activities after several weeks.
A herniated disc is one of the orthopedic injuries that can occur over time. However, an excessive injury or strain can also cause a herniated disc. They usually happen in the lower back, but the discs in the neck can also herniate. Other names for this injury are slipped, bulging or ruptured discs.
A herniated disc is a spine injury. The round cushions between the vertebrae buffer the bones. A leak or tear in the cushion results in a herniated disc.
A herniated cervical disc, or neck disc, can cause symptoms such as:
A car accident doctor may use a variety of ways to diagnose a herniated disc. He or she may perform an exam to evaluate pain, muscle reflex, strength and sensations. The patient may also need an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, myelogram, or electromyography (EMG) test.
Several forms of treatment can help a herniated disc heal. A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and pain relievers. Physical therapy can also help relieve pressure on the affected area, improve circulation and loosen tight muscles.
Most of the time, a herniated disc gets better in about four weeks, but it can take longer. In rare cases, a patient may need surgery to fix the problem.
The meniscus is in the knee. It is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that absorbs shock between the leg’s upper and lower bones. It also stabilizes the knee. The meniscus can tear when an accident twists or applies force to the knee.
A meniscus tear may have no symptoms at all. Like many orthopedic injuries, though, symptoms can include pain in the affected area. They can also include:
A doctor diagnoses a torn meniscus with a physical exam. He or she may move or press on the knee and leg to check for symptoms. The patient may also require an X-ray or MRI.
Pain and motion control help a torn meniscus heal. The car accident orthopedic doctor may recommend resting the knee, using crutches or a brace, and propping the leg. The patient may also need pain medication or physical therapy. Sometimes a patient requires arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus.
Many patients heal from a torn meniscus within a few weeks or months. They may be able to resume normal activities sooner, though.
A car accident can leave you wondering what to do first. However, your primary concern is checking for injuries. Are you hurt? If so, call 911 or ask someone else to do so.
Even if you don’t have obvious signs of injury after an accident, it can still be a good idea to seek medical attention. Some injuries can have no symptoms at first — you may not even realize you have an injury.
The adrenaline rush you experience after a traumatic event can mask the pain. Your body goes into “fight or flight” mode so that you can handle the situation immediately. Adrenaline gives you a sudden energy burst, preparing you for action so that you can escape or fight the threat at hand. Therefore, you may not experience pain at the time of the crash. It may kick in much later.
Whether you have an injury with no symptoms or experience an adrenaline rush, seeking medical attention can benefit you. You get a diagnosis for undiscovered injuries and receive immediate care. These steps can prevent injuries from getting worse.
Injured Call Today has a board-certified team of car accident orthopedic doctors available to serve you in New York and New Jersey. Whether you have a minor injury or something quite severe, we deliver the resources you need when a crash leaves you injured.
Orthopedic specialists and other doctors listed in our directory accept personal injury protection (PIP), workers’ compensation, no-fault, medical liens, and other insurance plans. Contact Injured Call Today so that we can match you with a doctor for your orthopedic injuries to get the treatment options. Same-day and virtual appointments may be available.
Your health is so important. Don’t put off the treatment you need for orthopedic injuries after an accident — contact Injured Call Today to see an orthopedic specialist now.
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