When most people think of a car accident, they think of physical car accident injuries like whiplash or a broken bone. While many car accident injuries can be treated effectively with prompt medical attention, an injury can also lead to chronic pain when not treated as promptly. One of the downsides of waiting too long to get medical care for a car accident injury is that you risk complications like the development of chronic pain. This means the pain and discomfort you experience after the injury may continue well after the initial scrapes and bruises have healed. After a while, living with chronic pain can negatively impact your mental health. Here’s what you need to know about the impact of chronic pain on your mental health after a car accident injury.
Car Accident Injuries and Mental Health
A car accident can be an incredibly traumatic experience and can wreak havoc on your mental health even if you are not dealing with long-term complications like chronic pain. Here are different ways a car accident injury could negatively affect your mental health.
Shock & Stress
Car accidents can be very stressful for everyone involved, including drivers, passengers, and even witnesses. Immediately after the accident, you might notice your hands trembling as you try to remember what to do after a car accident. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may also experience shock. The trauma of a car accident can trigger your body’s fight or flight response, and shock is a way for your brain to pause and process the event later.
Anxiety & Nervousness
Getting into a car accident can cause or increase anxiety. You may feel worried or nervous about what steps to take next. Whether or not you were at fault or even driving at the time of the accident, you may develop a fear of riding in or driving a car. Recurring memories may keep you up at night and leave you feeling tired the next day.
Depression & Guilt
People can also experience feelings of depression and guilt after a car accident. Depression after a car accident is more common than many people may realize. A mental health condition like depression can cause emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms. Depression symptoms can look like sadness, unhappiness, feelings of guilt, or loss of interest in normal activities.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can also occur after a car accident. PTSD can cause a combination of symptoms, including stress, anxiety, depression, and panic. People who experience PTSD after a car accident may experience intrusive memories and extreme physical and emotional reactions to getting behind the wheel again.
Car Accident Injuries and Chronic Pain
Some of the most common car accident injuries can lead to chronic pain if left untreated or treated improperly. The best thing you can do to avoid chronic pain is to see a car accident doctor as soon as possible after getting into a wreck. These are examples of car accident injuries and how they can develop into chronic pain that negatively impacts your overall mental health.
Whiplash is the most common of all car accident injuries. While a seat belt helps protect you from shoulder to hip, there is not an equivalent safety feature for your head and neck. That leaves your head and neck vulnerable to an injury like whiplash. The sudden and forceful impact during a car accident can cause your head to jerk forward and backward violently. This can cause the muscles in your neck to strain and tear. Muscle stiffness, headaches, and difficulty turning your head in certain directions are common symptoms of whiplash. If left untreated, these symptoms can turn into chronic pain, so it’s best to ask your doctor about whiplash treatment.
Back & Neck Pain
Back and neck pain are also common after a car accident. The muscles and soft tissues that support your back and neck can stretch and strain out of their typical range of motion when a car accident occurs. An accident may jostle your upper body around and lead to musculoskeletal damage. One of the most common reasons for a doctor’s visit each year is back pain. When left untreated, a back injury from a car accident can develop into chronic pain that affects your mobility in the long term.
Injuries to the spine can also develop into chronic pain when left untreated. One of the most common spine injuries from a car accident is called a herniated disc. The sudden force of a car accident can put significant pressure on your spine, causing a spinal disc to compress a nearby nerve. Spinal discs typically help absorb shock and provide cushioning support between vertebrae in the spine. When the gel-like inner nucleus spills out of a crack in the tough outer shell of a spinal disc, it can aggravate nerves and cause uncomfortable symptoms like pain, tingling, and numbness.
How Chronic Pain Can Impact Mental Health
Our bodies are not meant to experience pain for a long period of time. While initial pain with an injury can signal to the brain that something is wrong, prolonged pain can start to affect your mental health and well-being. The combination of physical pain and mental distress after a car accident, for instance, can be incredibly taxing on the body, both physically and emotionally. When you live with pain every day, it can lead to chronic stress that exacerbates symptoms of anxiety or depression. An increase in stress hormones over a prolonged period of time can also affect your ability to regulate strong emotions.
When you have chronic pain, mental health issues may also develop with time. In fact, research has shown that people who deal with chronic pain are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Depression from chronic pain can affect your ability to successfully complete your routines and go to work or school. Chronic pain may keep you from participating in activities you used to enjoy. This can increase feelings of depression or anxiety and negatively impact your overall physical and emotional well-being. When you are dealing with chronic pain, you may become less interested in participating in social activities and experience persistent low levels of energy.
Managing Mental Health After a Car Accident Injury
One of the best ways to manage your mental health after a car accident is to seek treatment right away. Whether you have symptoms of car accident injuries or not, it is best to get checked out by a medical professional. A car accident doctor knows what signs and symptoms to look for, and they can diagnose a car accident injury even if you have delayed symptoms. In fact, it is not uncommon to experience delayed symptoms after a car accident. You might not feel pain or discomfort at first, but once the stress and trauma from the experience sets in, you may develop both physical and mental symptoms. Millions of people get into car accidents each year, and car accident doctors will talk to you about how the experience has impacted you both physically and mentally. Car accident doctors are well-versed in chronic pain effects on mental health and will help you monitor your physical and emotional symptoms after a car accident.
Preventing Chronic Pain with Effective Treatment
A key aspect of supporting your mental health after a car accident is to help prevent the occurrence of chronic pain. By getting your car accident injuries treated as soon as possible, you significantly reduce the risk of dealing with chronic pain in the future. Getting the care and treatment you need for physical injuries after a car accident can help boost your overall mental health. Your car accident doctor will work with you to help you regain strength and mobility after a car accident, along with the confidence to return to your regular activities.
Effective treatment options for car accident injuries will vary depending on your specific car accident injuries and symptoms. When you visit a car accident doctor after a wreck, they will develop a personalized plan of care to address your goals for treatment. This may include a combination of therapies and treatment techniques to relieve your pain and other symptoms. Your car accident doctor may recommend a combination of conservative approaches to treatment, like at-home remedies, chiropractic care, and physical therapy. These more natural approaches to treatment can help you avoid the need for more invasive procedures or treatment options like surgery.
Visit AICA Orthopedics in Snellville if you have been in a car accident. Our team of car accident doctors will provide you with the comprehensive care you need to help manage both physical and emotional symptoms and the effects of a car accident injury. At AICA Orthopedics, our Snellville doctors include orthopedic doctors, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists who work together to provide you with the care you need, all in one convenient location. We offer on-site diagnostic imaging tools, like X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans, so you can meet with your doctor and get any recommended scans in one location. Call or visit us online to schedule an appointment with one of our car accident doctors today, and we will help you prevent chronic pain and support your mental health after a car accident!