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Pain Management for Personal Injury Victims

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Victims of motor vehicle accidents often suffer injuries involving damage to the body's "soft tissues" — the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Many of these injuries lead to chronic pain requiring pain management and rehabilitation. If you or someone you love is suffering from soft tissue injuries sustained in an accident, several types of therapists may be able to help you, including chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists and naturopathic doctors.

If your injuries are such that you need ongoing therapy, the bills may quickly add up. If you suspect that someone else is to blame for your injuries, contact a personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your case and educate you on lawsuits, settlements and court awards. By filing a personal injury lawsuit you may be able to gain compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills and other expenses related to your injury.

Pain Management Practitioners

When a motor vehicle accident occurs — whether from a car crash, rollover, injury accident caused by ATV or other incident — those involved may suffer from any number of soft tissue injuries. Pain management specialists attempt to help accident victims overcome their pain and heal from their injuries without surgery or excessive medication, with the ultimate goal being to help victims return to their everyday lives. Additional specialists such as neurologists, psychologists and others may participate in the treatment of people with more permanent conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury.

Some of the more commonly sought-after types of pain management specialists include the following.

Sports Physicians. Medical doctors may prescribe or perform any number of treatments to help patients with chronic pain overcome their discomfort. This may include anti-inflammatories, surgery or alternative treatments such as those discussed below.

Chiropractors. The discipline of chiropractics revolves around the relationship between the structure and function of the body. In practical terms, it consists mainly of spinal adjustments, or "manipulations," which are applied in an attempt to realign the spine. (Misalignment of the spine can interfere with healing and cause extreme discomfort or pain in some situations.) Back pain, neck pain and headaches are the most common conditions treated by chiropractors. Many chiropractic offices also employ other pain management specialists, including the ones listed below.

Physical therapists. Physical therapy is often used to help victims of motor vehicle accidents because it is very effective for the treatment of sprains, strains and other soft tissue injuries. This form of therapy can prevent the development of debilitating scar tissue as well as train the tissue to function in a manner similar to normal tissue. Physical therapy is particularly effective in the management of back pain. In a recent study published in the medical journal Spine, 92 percent of patients with lower back pain reported that physical therapy reduced their pain.

Acupuncturists. Most commonly used for back pain, but also for joint pain, neck pain and headaches, acupuncture has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over the past few decades. Studies sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine have found that acupuncture is most effective for the treatment of chronic lower back pain. Further research is needed for other conditions.

Massage therapists. Massage can be very beneficial for the relief of back pain and other chronic pain caused by motor vehicle accidents. Deep tissue massage is the most effective form of massage for these injuries, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. When compared to other treatments, massage therapy is one of the more effective treatment options, according to a recent study. The same study found that massage reduces the need for pain medication by 36 percent.*

Naturopathic Doctors. Naturopathic medicine is based on a belief in the body's natural healing processes. Naturopathic doctors rely on this theory when formulating a patient's treatment regimen. They typically set out to identify anything serving as a barrier to healing and may prescribe any number of herbal or hormonal supplements, or provide referrals to other specialists. Chronic pain is one of the most common ailments treated by naturopathic physicians; sprains as well as spinal, joint and disc injuries are the most common injuries treated.

Bowenwork Practitioners. Bowenwork, also known as Bowtech, the Bowen Technique or homeopathy of bodywork, is a therapy that attempts to restore balance through the autonomic nervous system. The therapy consists of a series of "moves" that send signals to specific locations in the body, such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Bowenwork is used to treat a variety of ailments, including chronic pain.

Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists. Accidents, sports injuries and other incidents often cause trauma to the muscles, in turn causing certain areas to remain contracted and become hypersensitive. These "trigger points" not only lead to localized pain, but also cause referred pain. In other words, when triggered, the pain can be felt in other areas. To reduce or eliminate this pain, the trigger points need to be "deactivated." This is accomplished through myofascial trigger point therapy, a comprehensive treatment that may consist of compression, stretches, microcurrent therapy, fluori-methane spray and therapeutic exercises. Other factors are addressed as well, such as nutrition, water intake, posture and work station ergonomics. Myofascial trigger point therapy requires a prescription from your doctor. It is sometimes used in combination with other treatments such as physical therapy, chiropractic and/or acupuncture.

Soft Tissue Injuries

The term soft tissue refers to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Those suffering from injuries to these tissues make up a significant portion of the people who seek out the services of pain management specialists. This is because soft tissue injuries frequently lead to chronic pain, relief from which often depends on the therapies offered by chiropractors, physical therapists and other therapists.

Common injuries to soft tissues include whiplash, sprains, strains and other injuries. These injuries are very common in car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents due to the violent forces people often absorb in collisions. Vehicle occupants in car crashes are often thrown forward and backward, which can cause hyperextension (excessive forward movement) and hyperflexion (excessive backward movement), respectively. These movements can tear the body's soft tissues.

Symptoms of soft tissue injuries include sharp, persistent pain as well as swelling. Minor soft tissue injuries can heal within a couple of weeks, while more serious soft tissue injuries can lead to chronic pain and necessitate pain management therapies.

If you are suffering from chronic pain due to soft tissue injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident, your primary care doctor may refer you to a chiropractor, massage therapist or other pain management specialist.

Compensation for Your Injuries

Although medical insurance does sometimes cover some of the costs of pain management therapy, this is not always the case. Accident victims who believe someone else's negligence is fully or partly to blame for their injuries should contact a personal injury attorney who can evaluate their case and help determine whether filing a lawsuit is likely to result in a sizeable settlement. Experienced personal injury and auto accident attorneys have the expertise necessary to assess your chances of obtaining compensation for your losses.

* Annals of Internal Medicine