Auto Accident Recovery

Accidents happen, and even a minor one can cause an injury. While you may walk away feeling fine after the accident, aches and pains can be signs of more serious medical conditions that require orthopedic diagnosis and treatment.

If you've been in a car accident, it's important to seek medical treatment immediately from a medical doctor that specializes in auto accident injury assessment and care.

Why do I need to seek treatment right after a car accident?

Symptoms of auto accident injuries vary greatly from person to person. You may develop symptoms right away, or you may not experience any symptoms at all. Even if you "feel fine," you should see a personal injury doctor as soon as possible. It's easy to think everything is okay when it very well might not be. Even in low-impact accidents, disc damage can occur. If you wait too long to receive treatment, then you may end up paying for your recovery out of pocket, and your injury may get worse.

Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance covers your care even if the accident was your fault, so there's no reason to delay treatment. In fact, PIP insurance has a 14-day statute of limitations, so delaying your treatment could end up costing you more in the end. You must seek care within 14 days in order to qualify for your PIP benefits.

young man calling the doctor after a car accident

Why see an orthopedic doctor?

An orthopedic surgeon can evaluate your injuries in a more comprehensive manner than a general doctor.


If you have received emergency medical treatment or seen a general physician after an auto accident, you should still seek specialized treatment to detect broken bones, torn muscles and ligaments, or other orthopedic injuries that can result from a crash.

According to the Director of Personal Injury Services at Alexander Orthopaedics, "An orthopedic surgeon can evaluate your injuries in a more comprehensive manner than a general doctor. Did you know most primary care physicians will not treat their own patients when they are involved in a car accident? They refer directly to an orthopedic surgeon. In addition, many of the injuries sustained in a car or motorcycle accident can be extremely time-sensitive. Displaced fractures, for example, require immediate treatment and intervention. It's important to see an orthopedic surgeon immediately after your car accident because of the time-sensitive nature of these injuries."

Experienced orthopedic physicians have the training and knowledge to help detect and treat soft tissue injuries, which may not be as obvious as broken bones but can be just as debilitating. An orthopedic consultation can also help you identify the causes of delayed pain and muscle soreness.

Finally, establishing care with Alexander Orthopaedics allows you to get a long-term, personalized treatment plan that will ensure you are on the road to a lasting recovery, not a temporary solution.

What symptoms might I experience after an accident?

Right after an auto accident, your symptoms might not be apparent. Lisa Alexander says that, "Initially, you may have headaches and feel sore and achy. As inflammation sets in, you will gradually feel more sore the initial days after your accident. This is the ideal time to seek treatment - immediately."

These symptoms can occur immediately or after a couple of days - symptoms vary depending on the situation.

Dr. Vladimir Alexander assessing a shoulder injury
  • Headaches

  • Pain in shoulder, neck, back or other area of the body

  • Restricted motion

  • Numbness, tingling, and/or burning sensations in your arms, hands or fingers

  • Bump or deformity near injury

  • Inability to lift objects

  • Lack of mobility

  • Sagging shoulder, arm, or joint

Common orthopedic car accident injuries

Car accidents can result in injuries that are both immediately apparent as well as delayed. Seeking medical care is important because what may seem like just a bruise can be something much more severe, like a fracture. Getting medical attention reduces the chance of further injury and can help speed up recovery. Common auto accident injuries include:


One of the more frequent car accident injuries, whiplash is typically associated with rear-end collisions and is caused by abruptly jerking the head and neck. Ligaments, discs, nerves, cervical muscles, and the spaces between vertebrae may be damaged due to this extreme motion.

One of the more frequent car accident injuries, whiplash is typically associated with rear-end collisions and is caused by abruptly jerking the head and neck. Ligaments, discs, nerves, cervical muscles, and the spaces between vertebrae may be damaged due to this extreme motion.

Scrapes, cuts, and bruises

These injuries are typically treated on-site and result from broken glass or metal.

Head injuries

From a mild concussion to a traumatic brain injury, car accidents can cause head injuries that lead to headaches, nausea, problems sleeping, concentrating, and making day-to-day decisions.

Broken bones

Broken ribs, wrists, hips, legs, arms, and ankles are all common due to the amount of force that can be applied to the body during a car accident.


Arms, hands, fingers, legs, ankles, feet, toes, collarbone, and facial fractures can all be caused by a car accident. Fractures can cause pain, swelling, bruising, and loss of function, and may require surgical treatment.

Soft tissue injuries

Strains, tears, ruptures, inflammation, and general damage to the muscles, ligaments, or tendons are common in a car accident.

Herniated disc

Back pain is a very common car accident symptom, and one of the causes of it is due to herniated or bulging discs in the spine.

Knee trauma

The impact of the crash can cause your knee to hit the dashboard, resulting in pain to your knee ligaments and kneecap.

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Can a car accident aggravate other conditions?

Another reason it's important to seek medical treatment after the accident, even if symptoms are delayed, is that an auto accident can trigger and worsen an existing injury or medical condition. Here are a few conditions that can be significantly worsened by a car accident:

Back problems

If you already have chronic back problems, then a car crash can exacerbate them. A car accident can cause new chronic back pain so it is important to be examined by a medical professional.

Broken bones

A broken bone can refracture and possibly become more difficult to heal if it is injured in a car accident.

Brain injuries

Having an existing brain injury can make the damage of a car crash much more serious, and can aggravate or cause complications such as headaches, dizziness, and memory loss.


Car accidents are associated with causing post-traumatic arthritis or making pre-existing arthritis more severe.

Degenerative disc disease

After getting into an accident and suffering from back pain, sometimes people find out that they have degenerative disc disease. This can make the back pain take a more intensive form than it would otherwise.

What are some common orthopedic treatments after an auto accident?

Our physicians are uniquely suited to diagnose and treat injuries from a car accident. Whether it's a broken bone, a sprain, or an inflamed tendon, we will accurately diagnose your injury and develop a specialized recovery plan for you. As Lisa Alexander says, "Alexander Orthopaedic Associates is the best practice for auto accident treatment because of the comprehensive care we can offer. Using a team approach, our highly skilled specialists can address every injury under one roof with modalities including physical therapy, MRIs, and more."

Car accident recovery treatment may include:

  • Examinations, X-rays, and MRIs

  • Medication, including anti-inflammatory medication

  • Outpatient surgery on site

  • Physical therapy

  • Post-operative house calls*

  • Post-operative rehabilitation in home*

*Total joint surgery patients only.

FAQs about Auto Accident Recovery

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about what happens after a car accident.

What should I expect after a traumatic car accident?

There are a lot of variables involved in any car accident, but almost always people are in shock. Some injuries — such as cuts, contusions, bruises and broken bones — are obvious right away. But other physical effects can be harder to detect, especially when you’re dealing with the immediate aftermath of the accident: the disruption to your day, exchanging insurance information with a stranger, perhaps getting your car towed, rearranging your schedule, calling your insurance company.

In the next 24 to 48 hours after an accident, there are some particular symptoms to look out for that can be indicative of a larger problem:

  • Headaches and nausea

  • Back pain

  • Pain or stiffness in the neck or shoulders

  • Fatigue or excessive sleepiness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Post-operative rehabilitation in home*

  • Tingling or numbness in your extremities

You should always see an orthopedic specialist after a car accident just to be safe, but especially if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. The sooner you work with a doctor to diagnose and treat the underlying problem, the better the odds for your recovery.

Is it normal to feel exhausted after a car accident?

Exhaustion, fatigue, and excessive sleepiness after a car accident can all be indications of a traumatic brain injury. Along with headaches and nausea, these symptoms often result from some sort of blow to the head that occurred in the accident. These symptoms are often tied to concussions and should be taken seriously.

How long does shock last after a car accident?

After an auto accident you may experience physical shock or psychological shock. Physical shock may be caused by a sudden dramatic drop in blood pressure. It’s often accompanied by pale or clammy skin, a rapid pulse, dilated pupils, or difficult or rapid breathing. Since shock affects the flow of blood and oxygen in the body, you should seek medical help right away.

Psychological shock may last much longer. Car accidents are very disruptive to our lives and often leave a mental impact that expresses itself through elevated anxiety, heightened nervousness, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How do you recover from car accident trauma?

If you’ve experienced psychological shock following a car accident, it’s best to meet with a therapist to address the issue directly. Speaking with others about your experience and paying attention to how you’re feeling can also help you recover with time and monitor your own well-being.

Recovery starts here.

A member of our team will reach out to you within 24 hours.