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Pain Management After an Accident

Pain management is a priority when healing, especially after an injury or accident. It alleviates the physical and emotional suffering that distracts you from getting back to living. Less pain means more energy for recovery and overall improved well-being.

At Richmond Vona we understand the importance of pain management in recovery from any type of accident, that’s why we made this guide, which details steps you can take after an accident, how to effectively manage pain, and other pieces of the process that help you recover quicker.

Most Common Pain Symptoms After a Car Or Other Type of Accident

Car accident survivors experience a range of pain symptoms. The most common symptoms and conditions include:

  • Back pain: The other most prevalent injury, often causing secondary pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms and legs
  • Whiplash: One of the two most common car accident injuries, results from the rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck
  • Headaches: Typical after car accidents, even when you don’t hit your head
  • Chest pain: Possible due to muscle strain or rib bruises but may indicate a heart attack if severe
  • Abdominal pain: Potentially serious as it may indicate internal injury
  • Joint pain: May develop due to impact or sudden movement
  • Emotional suffering: May present as anxiety, depression, or intense stress from the trauma of a crash

The symptoms you experience will depend on the type and severity of your injuries, as well as any prior conditions.

What To Do if You Have Pain After an Accident

Pain relief is often a top priority after an accident. Seeking care allows you to heal well and move forward despite what you’ve gone through.

What Should You Do First?

The first step after any accident is to seek medical attention. Even if you initially felt no symptoms but are now experiencing pain, it’s not too late to see a physician. Some injuries are not noticeable immediately.

Document your provider’s recommendations and follow them precisely. Following medical advice helps you recover and may impact your ability to receive compensation.

How To Manage Pain

If you experience enduring pain after an accident, you’re not alone. Research shows that over 30 percent of individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes experience back pain one year after the accident.

Pain relief is essential to continued recovery. A pain specialist can review your case and recommend treatment options, which may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Prescription pain medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Electrical nerve stimulation

Not every pain control treatment is suitable for everyone. It’s essential to see a medical specialist who can examine you and recommend the right course of treatment.

Promoting Rest and Recovery

Rest is the body’s most essential process for promoting healing. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends seven to nine hours of nightly sleep for adults, but people recovering from an injury or accident may need more. Make time for the sleep your body tells you it needs. 

Recovery from an injury also requires purposeful rejuvenation during your waking hours. Commit to practices that allow your body time to heal, such as:

  • Sufficient downtime: Everyone’s recovery journey has a different timeline. Instead of pushing yourself to return to full function too soon, give yourself time to be still.
  • Time off work: Returning to work too early can tax your body and mind and delay recovery. Consider gradually resuming your usual schedule or asking your employer to temporarily change your assignment, especially if you perform physical labor.
  • Gentle movement: Moving helps your body recover strength and flexibility. Try low-impact exercises such as walking or easy stretching if your doctor allows.
  • Hydration and proper nutrition: Your body needs water and healthy food to rebuild what the accident damaged. Experts recommend at least 4 to 6 cups of water daily and a nutritious diet. Protein, iron, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin A are key nutrients for healing.

Your commitment to self-care is essential for recovery. Recognize your body’s needs and avoid pushing yourself. Doing too much too soon can set your recovery back significantly.

Seeking Emotional Support

Physical and mental health are intertwined, especially when dealing with pain after an accident. In one study, more than 30 percent of people with chronic pain reported co-occurring mental health symptoms such as anxiety or depression.

Support from others is essential to recovery across both domains. Multiple studies have connected a sense of community with improved recovery from mental health problems, and people with fewer social supports are more likely to report ongoing emotional challenges.

Overall, people with strong social support recover faster from injury. They are more likely to successfully return to work and school and less likely to experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after the incident.

If you have supportive friends and family, let them help you recover. Be honest with them about how you feel physically and emotionally, and ask for the help you need if someone doesn’t offer it. Remember that even your closest friends and family can’t read your mind.

Finally, choose emotionally aware service providers. At Richmond Vona, we prioritize open communication with our clients and understand the importance of mental health. We want every client to feel they can contact us anytime and express their concerns or thoughts. If you can be open about mental wellness with those helping you, your recovery process will be more positive overall.

Emotional Pain After an Accident 

Emotional distress is extremely common following a car accident. Survivors report a variety of mental health challenges, including:

  • PTSD: Intense and intrusive thoughts and responses related to a traumatic event, causing symptoms such as flashbacks, mood swings, hyperarousal, and avoidance of certain situations
  • Anxiety: Excessive fear or worry with emotional and physical symptoms, including restlessness, irritability, nausea, and heart palpitations
  • Insomnia: Trouble sleeping, sometimes related to ongoing pain, making it difficult to get comfortable
  • Depression: Sadness or feelings of emptiness, usually accompanied by a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

According to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, nearly one in three traffic accident survivors experience PTSD, and 17.4 percent experience symptoms of depression. Nearly 6  percent of survivors notice clinical signs of anxiety. Patients with pre-existing pain conditions and chronic illnesses were more likely to experience post-accident anxiety.

Trauma counseling can help you work through these symptoms and recover your mental health. The process typically begins with an assessment, during which your therapist evaluates your symptoms and considers potential diagnoses. The therapist then works with you to determine a treatment plan and goals.

Your primary care provider can recommend local mental health providers. You can also browse directories from reputable professional organizations, such as Psychology Today, the American Psychological Association, or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications

Health care professionals can manage your pain safely and effectively while considering your unique needs. Know your options so you can make an informed decision.

Common Medications for Post-Accident Pain

Medication can be a valuable tool for pain management after an accident. Typically prescribed types of pain control medication include:

  • Opioids: Prescribed for severe pain that doesn’t respond to other medications, opioids block pain signals in the brain and are extremely powerful. However, they are habit-forming and highly addictive. Most patients should use them for no more than three to four months.
  • NSAIDs: Prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are more potent than their over-the-counter counterparts. NSAIDs limit your body’s ability to produce a substance called prostaglandins, which irritate the nerve endings and cause pain.
  • Acetaminophen: Often sold under the brand name Tylenol, prescription-strength acetaminophen is available in doses up to 4,000 mg daily—more than that risks potential liver damage.

Acetaminophen and NSAIDs are also available over the counter in lower doses. Common OTC pain relief brands include Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. Before starting any pain-control regimen, talk with your doctor about what medication you’ll be taking and its risks and side effects.

Side Effects of Pain Medication

The side effects of opioids include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Itchy skin
  • Constipation 
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you use opioids long-term, suddenly stopping may cause withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, insomnia, restlessness, mood swings, and digestive problems. Gradually lowering your dose may reduce your risk of withdrawal.

NSAIDs and acetaminophen also have side effects, all more likely with high-dose or long-term use. The most common side effects of NSAIDs are bruising, stomach bleeding, high blood pressure, and kidney problems.

Acetaminophen has fewer side effects but may cause liver damage if you take it long-term. Drinking alcohol increases your risk of liver damage.

Pain Management Medication Safety

Pain medications, especially prescription meds, can be addictive. Only take your pain medication as prescribed, and do not give anyone else access. 

Opioids have the highest risk of addiction and may not be appropriate for everyone. If you have struggled with substance use disorder or addiction, or you are at high risk for addiction, ask your doctor about non-opioid pain control options. These can be just as effective and are usually safer in the long term.

If you think you may be developing a dependence, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Should you need immediate help, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline.

Professional Care and Alternative Methods To Help Manage Pain

Medication isn’t the only way to manage post-accident pain. Studies have shown that alternative and complementary therapies can help to control pain. Some options include the following:

  • Physical therapy: Improves range of motion and strengthens muscles to speed up recovery time
  • Chiropractic care: Treats spinal misalignments and other musculoskeletal issues to relieve pain
  • Massage therapy: Manipulates the soft tissues to relieve tension, improve circulation, and ease discomfort
  • Acupuncture: Improves energy flow and restores balance through precise placement of thin needles into the skin
  • Yoga and tai chiPromote relaxation and lessen pain while improving strength, balance, flexibility, and posture
  • Aromatherapy: Reduces stress and promotes calm, which can ease pain 
  • HypnotherapyFocuses your attention to reduce the intensity of pain
  • Herbal remedies and supplementsManage chronic pain with plant-based dietary products
  • Mindfulness and meditation: Cultivate awareness and acceptance of circumstances, including pain sensations, either through individual practice or treatments such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
  • BiofeedbackTrains the mind to control otherwise involuntary processes, such as heart rate and muscle tension, to reduce pain responses
  • Music therapy: Distracts from pain, encourages relaxation, and reduces anxiety, especially when managing chronic pain or undergoing pain treatments
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Seeking Compensation for Negligence-Induced Injuries

While many options exist for treating chronic pain, the costs can quickly add up. If you suffered injuries in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you may be able to seek compensation.

Contact Richmond Vona to learn more about your options. Call us today or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.

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