There are so many things that you can go through after a car accident, mentally and physically, that you might not even expect. Even a car accident that doesn’t seem that severe at the time can lead to long-lasting mental and physical symptoms.
If you are aged 65 or older, you may be more likely to sustain serious injuries, according to the CDC. For example, the CDC said that in 2017, 257,000 older drivers sought treatment in the emergency room after an accident.
That doesn’t mean injuries are limited to this age group, though.
If you’re in an accident, you may not know what to expect or how to best recover, and the following are tips to help you along the way.
What to Expect Physically
After an accident, even if you think you walk away without any injuries at all, it’s possible that you could experience pain or injuries later on.
One of the most important things you can do after an accident is listen to your body.
Think about symptoms such as pain or headaches that could mean you need medical help.
If your child is involved in an accident, it can be tough for them to explain what they’re feeling, so be aware of any potential symptoms they may be experiencing as well.
If you’re in an accident, it can be a good idea to go to the emergency room even if you don’t feel like you’re injured so that you can get a professional evaluation. The medical staff may see things you didn’t see, and at some point, down the road, you might also need that documentation.
Some of the most common hidden injuries after a car accident can include traumatic brain injuries, herniated discs, and knee injuries.
Steps to Heal Physically
Always follow the instructions of your health care provider, but if they say it’s okay, beyond resting and staying hydrated, try to start moving. Do gentle exercises at first.
When you have an exercise routine, it can help with not only with physical healing but also emotional healing.
When you’re just starting out, some gentle stretching may be all you can handle.
You might also think about physical therapy, depending on the extent of your injuries and any pain you may be experiencing.
Healthy foods are important during this time too. You want to make sure you’re eating fresh, whole foods that have protein and vitamins, which support your body’s natural healing process.
Care For Your Mental Well-Being
Your mental health can take a nosedive following an accident. You may feel anxiety or develop phobias, and often even after accidents that don’t seem that severe, people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A psychological injury is just as real as a physical injury, and its debilitating effects should not be taken lightly after being in a car accident.
Talk to people you trust, whether that’s your spouse, relatives, or friends. If you think it’s best for you, you might want to see a counselor.
Try to get back into the routines you followed before the accident as much as you can.
Some of the worst mental effects of an accident may not occur immediately. You might be in shock in the immediate days following the accident, and that shock can turn into anxiety.
If you continuously replay the accident or you’re finding it hard to get back to your normal life, you might want to talk to a therapist.
- Ongoing, unending feelings of uneasiness
- Anxiety about not only driving but even riding in vehicles
- Avoiding medical tests
- Feeling excessively worried, irritable or angry
- Having nightmares
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling disconnected from the people and world around you
- Repeated, uncontrollable memories of the accident
You may be more likely to experience PTSD after a car accident if you have certain underlying risk factors.
This can include having underlying mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.
If you deal with mental or physical injuries or symptoms, make sure you keep notes of the details. You may need them if you’re going to hire a personal injury lawyer, and you may need them for insurance as well.
Don’t assume that something isn’t a big deal following an accident, because it might be.
Above all else, give yourself time to recover after an accident. Don’t be too hard on yourself because being in a car accident, even one that’s seemingly not serious can take a toll on you so be gentle and watch for red flags and symptoms you may need to talk to someone about.