Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience that may result in serious injuries. Even if you don’t feel any pain immediately following the collision, you should still see a doctor right away. Here is what you need to know about seeking medical care following a car accident.
Why You Should Always Visit an Urgent Care After an Auto Accident
When you have been in a collision, you may not immediately notice that you are injured because of all the adrenaline pumping through your body. Depending on the nature of your injury, it may take several days or even weeks for symptoms to appear. You might also have hidden injuries such as a concussion, internal bleeding, or organ damage that need to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
If you have suffered a critical or life-threatening injury, like a severe burn, major broken bones, uncontrollable bleeding, or are experiencing breathing difficulties, you need to get to an emergency room right away.
However, if you only sustained a minor injury after a car accident, there are many benefits of visiting an urgent care center:
- Urgent care centers provide fast check-ups to accurately determine the scope of your injury.
- At an urgent care center, you will rarely need to wait for more than 15 minutes compared to hours of waiting in an emergency room (given that your condition is not critical).
- Urgent care centers are significantly less expensive than emergency room visits.
- While emergency rooms will provide only the necessary treatment and refer you to your primary care physician, an urgent care clinic can offer more comprehensive care before you get discharged.
- Many urgent care centers are open every day of the week, including evenings and holidays, allowing you to seek medical treatment at any time.
Common Injuries from Icy Road Collisions
Collisions are much more likely to occur on icy roads, where it may be difficult to spot invisible ice patches (black ice), causing you to lose control of the car. Below, we list the most common injuries sustained in accidents on icy roadways.
Whiplash occurs when the neck suddenly snaps back and forth in a rapid movement, similar to the cracking of a whip. This type of injury can cause sprains and strains in the neck and back, and in more severe cases may result in a herniated disc or cervical dislocation. Whiplash is one of the most frequent collision-related injuries, usually due to rear-end car accidents.
Common whiplash symptoms include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Headache at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
Most people who suffer from whiplash see an improvement within a few weeks following treatment, including pain medication and exercise. However, it is still essential to get a prompt diagnosis immediately after the accident in order to rule out broken bones or injuries that may lead to long-lasting complications.
Limb injuries are caused by the force of a collision between two cars. They may refer to one of the following:
- Ligament injuries: severing of muscles, tendons, and nerves
- Crush injuries: splintering of bones or hemorrhages of blood vessels
- Lacerations: cuts and punctures of skin, tissue, or bone
- Bruising and torn tissues and muscle
- Nerve injuries
- Fractures of the bones in the feet, ankles, knees, or lower limbs
Ligament injuries, and broken bones in particular, should always be treated by a medical professional. A single clean break might need only a cast to heal properly, whereas multiple or serious fractures might require surgery and hospitalization. All Centers Urgent Care locations have advanced medical imaging equipment that enables fast, accurate, and reliable diagnosis of bone fractures.
Spinal injuries may be caused by damage to the neck, mid-back, or lower back during a collision. The main spinal fracture symptom is moderate to severe pain that gets worse with movement. If your spinal cord is injured, you may also experience tingling, numbness, weakness in the limbs, or loss of bowel function due to damage to the nerves controlling the lower part of the colon.
Without immediate medical care, even a minor spinal injury may worsen over time, turn into a debilitating pain condition, and even lead to limited mobility. In case of a suspected spine injury, a doctor is likely to perform diagnostic medical imaging to rule out potentially life-threatening spinal cord injuries.
The most common treatments for spinal injuries include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, a soft collar, and chiropractic care. If these methods of treatment fail to resolve symptoms, it may be necessary to undergo surgery.
Head and brain injuries
Head injury, also referred to as brain injury and traumatic brain injury (TBI) is very common in auto accidents. The main types of brain injuries caused by car accidents are:
- Concussion or mild TBI
- Brain contusion
- Skull fracture
- Acquired brain injury
- Coup-contrecoup brain injury where the brain jerks suddenly within the skull
- Brain penetration that occurs when an external object enters the skull
Mild head injuries can lead to symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision, while more serious ones that require prompt medical attention include severe headaches, loss of consciousness, slurred speech, and inability to move. Whatever your symptoms, it is essential to get the necessary medical attention as soon as possible.
Scrapes and cuts
Scrapes and cuts may occur when you are struck by shattered window glass or injured by sharp metal or plastic that gets torn apart due to a collision. The face, jaw, and teeth are particularly vulnerable to injuries caused by the steering wheel, dashboard, or airbag.
Scrapes and cuts are not only painful, but they may also pose a risk for infections and other complications. People who suffer from diabetes or take immunosuppressants have an even higher chance of infection. If the cut is very deep or long, you may need skin glue or stitches.
Chest injuries refer to any damage in the chest area between the neck and the abdomen. They may affect the bones, including ribs and sternum, skin, muscles protecting your lungs, or internal organs like the heart and lungs.
Drivers are especially vulnerable to broken ribs and internal chest injuries that occur when they get thrown against the steering wheel. Chest injuries may also be caused by seat belts or impact against the dashboards.
Injuries to the chest vary in severity depending on the amount of force applied to the chest during the car accident. They may range from minor bruises to broken ribs and chest contusions that require extensive medical intervention. Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble breathing
- Fluid regulation changes (injury to your kidneys due to a blow to the chest)
Chest injuries that interfere with breathing or circulation can be life threatening and require urgent medical attention.
If you have been in a car accident and your life is not in danger, visit your nearest Centers Urgent Care where our expert medical staff will quickly evaluate and treat your injuries.