Soft Tissue Injuries from Car Accidents
Soft tissue injuries from car accidents can sometimes be overlooked by the victims. Unfortunately, we have seen patients who have thought they had minor injuries which blossomed into major problems. Sterling Medical Group treats and rehabilitates victims of all kinds of car accidents, and we’ve seen it all!
Our practice includes specialists in:
We are confident that we can help you make the best possible recovery after sustaining soft tissue injuries from car accidents.
What is Soft Tissue?
Your soft tissue includes the skin, connective tissue, fat, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments, and muscles. It does not include your bones which are considered hard tissue.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a commonly used term referring, in general, to a neck injury. It’s caused by the force of a car stopping suddenly due to crash impact or sudden slamming on brakes. The resulting motion for the occupants inside the car is similar to that of a cracking whip. Whiplash is not a diagnosis; it most often refers to either a sprain or a strain of the neck.
Common Soft Tissue Injuries That Occur During Car Accidents
The force of vehicle accidents is stronger than you realize until you’re in one. The impact of collisions can cause a person to sustain a wide range of injuries from minor to severe. While no two injuries are exactly the same, there are some injuries that we treat more frequently.
Let’s look at the types of common soft tissue injuries after accidents, the symptoms of soft tissue injuries, and diagnosis of soft tissue damage.
Soft Tissue Sprains
Sprains happen during car accidents when the sudden impact jolts your body so greatly that your ligaments that connect your bones become overstretched. In a car accident, a sprain will likely occur in your neck (which some people refer to as whiplash). In some cases, you may even experience tears in the ligament.
- Symptoms of sprains: pain or bruises around the area, swelling or inflammation, impaired flexibility.
- Diagnosis of sprains: X-rays will likely be required to rule out fractures or broken bones and your doctor will conduct a physical examination of the affected area.
Soft Tissue Strains
Strains, like sprains, occur during car accidents due to the abrupt strike to the vehicle. The difference from a medical standpoint is that strains are injuries to the tendons that connect the muscles to bones or to the muscle itself. When you’re in a vehicle accident, it’s not uncommon to suffer a strain in the lower back. The muscle can also become torn in the worst vehicle accident impact.
- Symptoms of strains: tenderness or bruising in the area of pain, inflammation or swelling, muscle spasms, less range of motion.
- Diagnosis of strains: As in sprains, your doctor will thoroughly examine you and will also probably order x-rays to conclusively diagnose a strain.
Contusions From Car Wrecks
The sheer force of a car wreck can cause contusions. You probably know this more commonly as bruising. This happens when your capillaries or blood vessels are struck with enough force to damage them sufficiently enough to cause the blood to leak into the surrounding tissue.
While bruises are fairly commonplace, they can cover your body significantly after a vehicle accident. They can also indicate other injuries such as broken bones, sprains, or strains.
- Symptoms of contusions: a discolored area on your skin, tender to the touch, a swollen patch around the bruise.
- Diagnosis of contusions: Your doctors will be able to diagnose contusions with an examination. In addition, they might order imaging to assess if there’s any additional injuries. Bruises generally go away on their own in time. Ice packs and rest will speed up the recovery process.
Cerebral Contusions and Concussions
Cerebral contusions and concussions are known as closed head injuries. This is bruising, swelling, or bleeding inside the skull around the brain. Vehicle wrecks are the most common cause of these life-threatening injuries. These are dangerous because there may be no visible sign of injury on the outside. Head injuries can easily be confused with a stroke—either way, you need to call 911.
- Symptoms of contusions: loss of memory, confusion, numbness, loss of speech.
- Diagnosis of contusions: A neurologist will order a neuropsychological examination, CT scan, and MRI. They will act swiftly to begin treatment immediately.
Lacerations - Cuts and Gashes
Lacerations are the most common soft tissue injuries from car accidents. This car accident injury can range from minor cuts to major gashes that require stitches or surgery.
When you’re in a car accident, the force can cause glass to shatter, road debris to enter the vehicle, and loose contents in your car to fly freely around the vehicle. The impact can be forceful enough for it to cut you.
You will see the lacerations right away, and you should always request emergency treatment. This will help to prevent seemingly minor injuries from becoming major concerns later.
Most Common Soft Tissue Injuries from Car Accidents
Shoulder impingement is shoulder pain that restricts range of motion and can interfere with daily activities that involve lifting the arms above the head. An example of this would be lifting the arms to put on a shirt.
This happens when the tendons of the shoulder become inflamed due to excessive exertion. Over time, this can develop into tendonitis in the shoulders. This requires the surgery commonly called rotator cuff surgery. In the case of an accident, it can be the result of the force of their body colliding with an airbag.
- Symptoms of shoulder impingement: pain in the shoulder, unable to reach upwards or behind the back, limited range of motion, weakness.
- Diagnosis of shoulder impingement: A doctor will conduct a review of your activities, administer an exam, and request x-rays to rule out arthritis or other problems.
You’ve probably heard of an athlete with a torn ACL but didn’t know exactly what that means. The ACL refers to the anterior cruciate ligament which is a connector in the middle of your knee. While you might not associate a knee injury with a car accident, it’s fairly common.
You are especially susceptible to a torn ACL when you contort your knee in any unnatural fashion. Knee injuries happen during car accidents, especially in rollover collisions or rear end collisions due to the sudden change in direction of your body.
- Symptoms of a torn ACL: Swelling of the knee area, pain when walking or standing, hearing a popping noise from the knee, pain in the knee that ranges from moderate to extreme.
- Diagnosis of a torn ACL: Your doctor will examine your knee and administer a simple test called a Lachman test. This test checks the victim’s range of motion and is relatively painless. He will also be likely to order an MRI to confirm the diagnosis.
Another painful knee injury, the MCL is the medial collateral ligament. It is located on the inner part of your knee. This also happens when your knee bends into an awkward or unnatural position during a car accident.
- Symptoms of a torn MCL: Swollen knee, pain or a feeling of pressure when you walk, loss of stability, a feeling of stiffness.
- Diagnosis of a torn MCL: The doctor will perform an exam and a Valgus Test to determine the severity of pain and pinpoint the source of the pain. He will also order imaging for confirmation.
Treatment for Soft Tissue Injuries
You’re diagnosed with soft tissue damage from a car crash. You might be wondering about some of the treatment options that you can expect. Below are some treatment options. Keep in mind that these will vary according to the types of injury you’ve sustained.
Treatment of sprains/strains/tears:
Sprains are most frequently easily treated with minimally invasive measures. Some treatments include:
- RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. This is effective in reducing swelling and inflammation quickly. Therefore, the pain of the sprain is reduced quickly.
- Immobilization: Your doctor may order a neck brace or other device to immobilize the injury. This gives it the opportunity to rest and repair.
- Physical Therapy: After an initial rest period, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. These exercises will help you recover from the injury and strengthen the area to help prevent re-injury.
- Surgery: While it’s not as common as less invasive treatments, a severe tear may require damage repair via surgery.
Treatment of shoulder impingement
Doctors will start with the least invasive treatment to help your shoulder heal unless there’s an immediate and evident need for surgery.
- Anti-inflammatory medication: The first step in treating shoulder impingement is usually anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain and swelling.
- Rest: Your shoulder needs to be rested in order to heal. You’ll be advised to refrain from repetitive motions, lifting, or stretching over your head.
- Ice: Ice packs held on the shoulder for 15 minutes at a time, every 4 to 6 hours will help to reduce the inflammation.
- Physical Therapy: The doctor may order physical therapy to help you regain strength and range of motion.
- Surgery: It’s possible that you may require arthroscopic surgery to repair your rotator cuff. This is normally a course of action only after non-invasive procedures have failed.
Treatment For ACL Tear
- Surgery: An ACL tear almost always requires surgery. It’s a minimally invasive, common procedure.
- Physical Therapy: After a post-surgical healing period, you may be prescribed physical therapy to help regain strength and flexibility in your knee.
Treatment For MCL Tear
Unlike an ACL tear, your doctor will probably try a combination of other treatments before recommending surgery to repair your MCL.
- Immobilization: Your doctor might have you try a knee brace to help you keep your knee still, so it can get rest
- Anti-inflammatory medications: These can be either over-the-counter or prescription medications.
- Physical Therapy: Your doctor will want to have you work on PT to increase your knee strength, prevent further damage, and improve flexibility.
- Surgery: Like ACL surgery, this is a minimally-invasive surgery.
When Should I See a Doctor After a Car Accident?
Accident victims often fail to seek immediate medical care after an accident. They think that their injuries are too minor to seek care, want to seek legal advice first, or are afraid of their insurance companies.
Whatever the reason for skipping medical treatment, it’s a big mistake.
The fact is that some injuries don’t appear until hours or even weeks after an accident happens. Getting checked out by a doctor is the best way to ensure that there’s not an unseen injury lurking in the background.
In addition, having any injuries, even seemingly minor ones, documented by a doctor is a way for accident victims to have those injuries documented by a professional. This helps make sure that the victim doesn’t inadvertently waive their rights to compensation by the insurance company.
In many cases, doctors are called to be an expert witness for their patients in cases where the victim must sue the insurance company or another driver for compensation. If you skip seeking medical treatment, you could waive access to essential documentation of your soft tissue injuries.
How to Get Help with Your Soft Tissue Injuries from Car Accidents
Sterling Medical Group is here to help you! We have 13 offices throughout central Florida. Our doctors have the experience and compassion to help you with injury care, pain management, and long-term care such as physical therapy.
In addition, you will receive the assistance from a Case Manager. They will advocate for you and assist you with filing paperwork, handle records, and assist with settlement resolutions.
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Your wellness is our goal. Contact us today to book your consultation.