Car accidents can turn your life into a distinct before and after time. Before your car accident, you probably weren’t thinking of police reports, lawyers, insurance, and doctors. In fact, it’s not uncommon for victims of car accident injuries to be so preoccupied with the stress of dealing with the aftermath of their car accident that they forget to seek car accident treatment for any injuries they may have incurred. Because car accident injuries can vary so greatly from person to person, and many injuries aren’t symptomatic until days or weeks after an accident, it can be easy to ignore injuries, especially to your soft tissue.
At AICA Jonesboro, we know how important it is not to ignore any symptom you have after a car accident. Minor injuries to soft tissue can blow up into major injuries if not treated properly and promptly. We’ll help educate you on what to look out for after a car accident so you can avoid the pain and trouble of long-term soft tissue injuries.
What Is Soft Tissue?
You may have heard of soft tissue before but have not paid much attention. If you’ve been in a car accident and are in pain, it’s likely you’re now paying attention to things like soft tissue and how it’s been affected by your car accident.
Soft tissue refers to the types of tissue like muscles, tendons, ligaments, and/or fascia that work to connect and support other body parts. These cells give our bodies connectivity and flexibility via these types of tissues. While these are the most commonly-referred-to soft tissues, soft tissue is also contained within our skin, fat cells, etc.
Soft tissue injuries are commonly caused by blunt impacts from car accidents, slip and fall, overuse, or a bad twist. These usually affect the neck, back, and knees, which are hubs for all kinds of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. When these tissues are injured, they are graded according to the severity of injury:
- Grade 1 – This is the mildest injury. Think of this as a pulled muscle, akin to pulling a muscle during a workout or routine daily activity like gardening or lifting a child. In mild injuries, tissue fibers are slightly damaged.
- Grade 2 – This is a moderate injury where partial tearing of fibers occurs. If the injury is near a joint, it may cause the movements in that joint to become loose.
- Grade 3 – This is a severe tear or rupture of the soft tissue fibers. It is an extremely serious injury that requires immediate, emergency medical attention.
Common Soft Tissue Injuries in Car Accidents
Soft Tissue Sprains and Strains
When a ligament is injured in an accident, it is considered a sprain. Sprains occur in car accidents when the forceful and sudden impact jolts your body. This force is so great that your ligaments become overstretched. The most common soft tissue sprain to occur in a car accident is whiplash. Usually, this is a mild injury, but in some cases, tearing of ligaments can occur.
When muscles or tendons are injured in a car accident, it is considered a strain. Strains and sprains occur for the same reason- the abrupt force of the vehicle jolting the body. Some of the most common strains as a result of a car accident occur in the lower back. In some severe accidents, the muscles around the back can tear.
The symptoms for strains and sprains are similar: tenderness or bruising in the area of pain, inflammation or swelling, muscle spasms, less range of motion, and decreased flexibility.
Sprains and strains are typically treated with minimally invasive procedures done at home or in the comfort of our office at AICA Jonesboro. Following the rest, ice, compression, and elevation method typically relieves most pain. Keeping the sprain or strain immobile also helps with the healing. In some cases, physical therapy is necessary to rehabilitate the injury.
Another common injury as a result of a car accident is shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement occurs when a tendon inside your shoulder rubs or catches on nearby tissue and bone as you lift your arm. This impingement causes pain in your shoulder and restricts your range of motion, especially when trying to lift your arms over your head, like when you’re trying to put on a shirt.
Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the shoulder become inflamed. If not treated in time, this can lead to tendonitis in the shoulders. Shoulder impingement typically occurs as a result of impact from the airbag. It’s not uncommon for this injury to need correction through rotator cuff surgery.
The symptoms of shoulder impingement are shoulder pain, inability to reach up or behind the back, limited range of motion in your shoulder, and weakness in your shoulder or arm.
The first step when treating shoulder impingement is typically to take an anti-inflammatory drug. At home, you should also rest your shoulder to give it time to heal. You shouldn’t move your affected arm over your head until your doctor directs you to do so. Additionally, ice packs for 15 minutes on the affected shoulder several times a day can help drive down inflammation. At AICA Jonesboro, we recommend seeing one of our physical therapists or chiropractors for a prescriptive healing routine and shoulder pain treatment. In the case that your injury requires surgery, we have in-house diagnostic teams to recommend the appropriate course of action to refer you to a surgeon.
Athletes commonly suffer from torn ACLs, but knee injuries after car accidents are common as well and vary in severity. Torn ACLs are a common car accident injury. Your ACL refers to the anterior cruciate ligament. This is one of the core ligaments that stabilize your knee joint. Your ACL connects your femur to your tibia and can tear as a result of an accident because car accidents commonly cause your body to contort or change directions suddenly. Rollover collisions or rear-end collisions are two of the most common types of accidents to result in ACL injuries.
The symptoms of a torn ACL include swelling of the knee, knee pain when walking or even standing, and a popping sound in the knee upon injury.
Unfortunately, ACL tears almost always require surgery, but it is a common, minimally invasive procedure. Part of your healing process from an ACL tear will be physical therapy with a specialist at AICA Jonesboro.
Like an ACL tear, MCL tears are common injuries in sports and, unfortunately, in car accidents. Your MCL is the medial collateral ligament, which is another one of the major ligaments that is located in part of your knee. The MCL runs down the inside of your knee, connecting your femur and tibia. When you experience an MCL tear, this tear can be partial or complete, depending on the type of accident you were in and the severity of the impact to your knee.
The symptoms of a torn MCL are a swollen knee, pain or feelings of pressure when you walk, inability to stabilize yourself, and sometimes feelings of stiffness.
Even though your MCL is closely related to your ACL, the recovery options are very different. Doctors will likely not recommend surgery initially with an MCL tear. Typically a mix of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy are used to heal an MCL tear. Surgery is only an option if all of these fail.
Contusions, Concussions, and Lacerations
You likely know the injury contusion by its more common name: bruise. Almost any car accident is likely to cause a contusion. In some cases, these will be minor, and in some cases, they will be more severe. Contusions can indicate additional injuries below the surface of the skin. If you experience cerebral contusions or a concussion, this is bruising, swelling, or bleeding around the brain as a result of head trauma. Any trauma to the head at all, even if it seems minor at the time, needs to be addressed by a medical professional immediately. Likewise, lacerations, or cuts, to the skin are also a common but usually minor injury. Some lacerations won’t require any treatment, but some lacerations may require you to pay a visit to the hospital for stitches. Either way, if you have any contusions or lacerations, you’ll want to get checked out by a medical professional.
The symptoms of a contusion are discolored skin around the site of the pain or injury. The symptoms of a concussion are confusion, loss of memory, numbness, and confusion or loss of speech. The symptoms of a laceration include breaking of the skin and bleeding.
Comprehensive Treatment at AICA Jonesboro
We are car accident treatment specialists with years of experience treating a variety of injuries related to car accidents. We specialize in chiropractic care and physical therapy, two essential treatment plans for soft tissue damage resulting from a car accident. For the best outcome, if you’ve been in a car accident, you should book an appointment with an AICA Jonesboro specialist right away to review your injuries and prevent any injury from becoming a major problem.