It’s always important to see a doctor after a car accident. Even minor automobile accidents can cause significant injuries that do long term damage to the human body if not treated properly. Depending on the severity of your injury after an accident, you’ll want to go to one of the following:
- A hospital emergency room
- An urgent care center
- A primary care physician
- A specialist physician (such as an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist)
What should I do after a car accident?
If you’ve ever been in an automobile accident, you know there’s a lot to take care of – and a lot of problems to solve – right away. You have to:
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver
- Report the accident to the police
- Report the accident to your insurance provider
- Take your car in to get an estimate on the damages
- Get your car fixed
- Figure out how you’ll get around while the car is being repaired
If you don’t notice your symptoms right away, or if they don’t seem severe, you might be tempted to skip a physical exam. However, it’s important to go see a doctor right away after an accident to protect your health and your finances. When you’re in a car accident in the state of Florida, you’re required to seek treatment within 14 days of the incident in order to qualify for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance benefits.
Certain injuries sustained in car accidents can seem relatively minor but then persist or worsen over time. If you delay going to a doctor for over 2 weeks because it feels unnecessary, a month later you might find yourself in need of treatment that PIP will no longer cover.
Should I inform my primary care doctor that I was in a car accident?
Yes, you should get in touch with your primary care doctor immediately if you were injured in a car accident. However, many primary care doctors will refer their patients to an orthopedic specialist after an accident. That’s because many of the types of injuries that occur in an accident fall within orthopedists’ range of specialization.
In addition to broken bones, orthopedic doctors treat a wide range of soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, and torn muscles and ligaments. Common symptoms after an accident that indicate you should see an orthopedic specialist include:
- Shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Pain or stiffness in the neck
- Leg or knee pain
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in your arms, hands, or fingers
- Grinding or popping sounds when moving joints
- General stiffness and restricted mobility
What type of doctor should I see after a car accident?
Here are some of the most common doctors people see after an accident, along with their areas of expertise.
Emergency Room Physician
Emergency rooms treat major and/or immediately life-threatening injuries such as major broken bones, large open wounds, uncontrolled bleeding, and severe head trauma. In many of these cases, it will be obvious that you need immediate emergency medical help, and any EMTs or first responders who arrive at the accident site will advise you on what to do next.
However, there may be times when you’re uncertain whether or not you need to go to an emergency room. Trust your gut: if your injuries feel serious, don’t hesitate – go to an emergency room right away.
Urgent Care Doctor
Urgent care centers are usually open late hours and on weekends so they offer a useful third option in between an emergency room and a regular doctor’s appointment, which may take a few days to schedule. They’re well-suited for injuries that require quick attention but aren’t immediately life-threatening. Urgent care clinics will typically refer patients to orthopedic doctors for follow-ups.
Primary Care Doctor
Your primary care doctor is the doctor that knows you and your medical history best, so they’re good to consult for day-to-day health issues, referrals, or with any questions about changes in your health. However, as mentioned above, primary care physicians often immediately refer patients to orthopedic specialists after a car accident to make sure they haven’t suffered a less obvious bone or soft tissue injury.
Neck and Spine Specialists
Neck and spine injuries such as whiplash and slipped or herniated discs are some of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents. Whiplash occurs when the head and neck rush forward and then are suddenly jerked back in the opposite direction – a common occurrence in rear-end collisions. Herniated discs occur when vertebrae irritate or otherwise put pressure on the spinal cord, often resulting in a wide range of painful, burning, numbing, or tingling sensations in the back or in the limbs.
In fact, one of the reasons it’s important to see a specialist after a car accident is because of the displaced way that back injuries manifest themselves throughout the body. Patients may experience pain or numbness in the limbs and extremities and not realize that a spinal cord injury is the cause. A neck and spine specialist has the knowledge and equipment to properly diagnose the cause of your pain, addressing the root problem and not merely chasing after symptoms.
The musculoskeletal system is complicated, and joints such as your knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders are the critical junctures where bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments all interact. When any part of these complicated networks isn’t working properly it can lead to persistent pain that impedes movement. Orthopedic doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating joint pain and can identify what part of the joint is causing the problem. Then, they address the issue with targeted treatment and/or therapy to stop it from getting worse.
When you break a bone, the type of fracture – and which bone is injured – will dictate whether you go to an emergency room. For instance, major broken bones or fractures that pierce the skin require immediate emergency treatment. However, other broken bones aren’t as easy to spot. Pain, swelling, inability to move a limb fully, and trouble standing or putting wait on an area are all possible symptoms of fractures. Regardless of the type of injury, broken bones are often treated by orthopedic specialists.
Specialists for Hands, Feet, and/or Ankles
The hands, feet, wrists, and ankles are some of the most sensitive parts of the body. Orthopedic doctors who specialize in treating the hands and feet work with patients to address the root causes of pain or inhibited motion.
Physical therapists work carefully with patients to develop a customized regimen of targeted exercises that can help reduce pain and restore function to injured parts of the body. Physical therapists work on the front lines of your recovery: through hands-on care and regular interaction with patients throughout the treatment process, they’re able to document your rehabilitation, assess any problems or concerns that arise during your treatment, and often prevent your injuries from getting worse.
How do I choose a car accident clinic?
You should pick a clinic that has experience working with patients injured in car accidents – one that understands the importance of early, preventative treatment in helping protect physical and financial wellbeing. It’s important to choose a clinic that specializes in many areas of orthopedic care, since car accidents can cause such a variety of injuries.
Our orthopedic physicians and physical therapists specialize in treating the most common types of injuries experienced in automobile accidents. We know how to work with patients and insurance companies to provide you with the expert care you need that is also covered by your policy whenever possible.
Let our specialists care for you after an auto accident
Whether you’re in pain right now from an injury you suffered in a car accident, or you merely want the security of knowing you’ve been checked out by an expert, the specialists at Alexander Orthopaedic Associates will thoroughly evaluate your condition and provide you with carefully-coordinated treatment. Our doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating injuries to bones, joints, tendons, and soft tissue with a range of therapies: everything from targeted exercises and over-the-counter drugs to physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, and outpatient surgery.
Don’t delay treatment any longer. The longer you put off making an appointment, the greater the chance that a minor, treatable injury could snowball into something worse. Our doctors draw on years of expertise and the latest in medical technology in order to provide you with the care you need to hasten your recovery and prevent your injuries from getting worse. Schedule an appointment today!