Auto accidents can be complicated. After an impact, you may or may not feel the effects of nerve damage or a traumatic brain injury. In many cases, symptoms can take days or even weeks to show up. If you have had such an accident, you may wonder what to do. When should you see a neurologist? For most, as soon as possible.
What Should You Do After an Accident?
After any serious impact, you should seek emergency care immediately. This allows you to receive immediate care for your injuries and it serves as concrete proof for insurance companies that the incident was severe enough to warrant medical attention. Visiting a neurologist can provide further support for your claim.
During your emergency visit, your doctor or physician assistant will assess your immediate condition, prioritizing the injuries that require immediate attention. If you have open wounds or broken bones, for example, your caretaker will deal with these first. If you have multiple injuries, expect to spend at least a night in the emergency room. This first stage of care is critical because your doctors need to get a diagnosis and a clear picture of what kind of care you need in the coming days and weeks.
If you hit your head on any surface in your vehicle, you should let someone know. Emergency staff usually perform tests to determine whether you’ve sustained any neurological impairments. These may include simple touch tests, reflex tests, or visual tracking exercises. The effects of a head injury can be quite profound, so you may also undergo memory and cognitive testing.
Generally, if you haven’t shown any signs of cognitive impairment after a few hours, your doctor will tell you to rest and watch for telltale signs of traumatic brain injury or other neurological problems. This is important; the first hours and days after an accident are among the most crucial for your recovery. Because your body is likely still pumping a lot of adrenaline, you may not feel like resting. It can, however, pay off immeasurably later. Though it can be boring or frustrating, avoid mentally stimulating activities like watching television, driving, or playing video games.
When Should You See a Neurologist?
Depending on your age, condition, and preexisting conditions, your emergency doctor may choose to perform a CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Both tests have advantages and potential drawbacks, so you should answer any questions your caregiver asks you honestly. While imaging alone can’t usually reveal the most common forms of brain injury, it can reveal extremely urgent conditions, such as cerebral contusion.
If you develop concussion symptoms or end up receiving treatment for a mild-moderate traumatic brain injury, you will likely be instructed to contact a neurology practice. You should, of course, follow any such instructions. If, however, you do not receive any indication that your condition warrants regular visits with a neurologist, you may want to see one anyway. Although head and spinal cord injuries can cause a staggering array of neurological disorders, symptoms to look for can include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Severe headache
- Tingling or numbness
- Disorientation or inability to move properly
- Confusion and memory deficits
When you book an appointment with a neurologist, your doctor can perform targeted examinations to find specific areas where you need work. They can also collaborate with other providers and arrange visits with physical or occupational therapists who can provide various therapies and exercises. For some patients, a speech pathologist can help to improve language memory and speech performance.
This is why it’s important to make an appointment as soon as possible. The sooner you visit a doctor, the sooner your recovery can begin. The first appointment with a neurologist can serve as a baseline for later appointments. Any tests you take can be compared with later data. If your condition suddenly changes or worsens, your neurologist can use earlier data to figure out what caused a decline.
Another reason you should make an appointment quickly is that auto insurance companies can try to deny that your injury was caused by your accident. Even after only a few days between your collision and your appointment, insurance may attempt to argue against your claim. If you see an emergency room doctor, you may not have to worry as much about scheduling rapidly, but you should still try to make it to a neurologist’s office as soon as possible.
In the early stages of an injury, it can still be hard to tell how your accident will affect your life. Though it can be unpleasant to think about, you may find it difficult to maintain a regular job or attend school while you recover. Social Security Disability often takes the word of a neurologist over other medical professionals. Neurologists specialize in their ability to diagnose common tension headaches, migraines, cognitive impairments, nerve damage, and many other diseases and conditions. They will order specialized tests to determine the extent of injury to your nervous system so as to make a quick and accurate diagnosis.
When Should You See a Neurologist for a Follow Up?
Sometimes, only a single appointment is necessary for a neurologist to arrange the care you need to recover from your injury. Often, however, traumatic brain injuries and similar conditions require continuous treatment.
Over time, the brain and nervous system naturally heal. Most scientists agree that this kind of healing continues for around a year or slightly more. Sometimes, this is more than enough time for your body to fully recover from a traumatic incident. Other times, it’s only enough for the most essential parts of the brain to heal.
Headaches and migraines are among the most common signs of a head or neck injury, and your body may begin to develop worsening pain symptoms after your collision. Sometimes, body aches or headaches can take up to a year to present themselves fully. These problems are a sure sign that you should book a new appointment. When treating pain, neurologists choose the least harmful, least addictive medications and methods first. Occasionally, a simple nerve block can alleviate serious migraines.
Don’t be surprised if your doctor seems intent on scheduling appointments for you far in advance. Healing the brain is a marathon, not a sprint. This can be discouraging at first, but you should realize that you have the benefit of “neuroplasticity.” Essentially, neuroplasticity is the process by which the brain develops new connections. When this happens consciously, we call it learning. Even unconscious processes, however, like balance and visual alignment, can be taught.
As early as days after your injury, your neurons can begin to reroute themselves around damaged areas, allowing you to do things you may have thought you could do no longer. Even after the brain stops healing itself naturally, you can continue to learn and reap the benefits of neuroplasticity. Although every patient inevitably develops a “baseline,” at which new learning ceases, this often happens many years after an initial incident.
Your ability to recover from a traumatic collision depends somewhat on your age and overall health. Generally, the younger you are, the quicker you can learn and heal. If you’re older, however, you aren’t necessarily bound to deal with your symptoms forever. Even elderly patients with severe strokes often regain lost function over time.
When Should You See a Neurologist in New York City?
In order to recover fully, it’s important to heed your doctor’s advice. Neurologists and other collaborating medical professionals have likely seen hundreds of other patients who have been injured in auto accidents. A neurologist is sure to have expert advice on best practices and understand how to maximize healing. If your doctor suggests scheduling a follow-up, it’s usually best to listen. If you haven’t been directed to make another appointment, don’t hesitate to contact your office again, should your symptoms reappear or worsen.
If you live in the New York City Metropolitan area, you’re lucky to live close to some of the best hospitals in the world. At Medical Clinics of New York City, our physicians have seen a broad range of patients with an entire spectrum of neurological conditions. We can perform several diagnostic tests, including:
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Nerve Conduction Studies
- Lumbar punctures
- Computed tomography
Many patients hesitate to seek proper care because they worry that they won’t be able to afford it. In New York City, no-fault insurance coverage usually covers 100% of your neuromuscular medicine visit costs after a car accident. Although you may have to prove that your appointment was medically necessary, most doctors are well versed in the paperwork needed to prove your case. If you visited an emergency room promptly, you should have no cause for concern.
Medical Clinics of New York City
So, when should you see a neurologist? If you’ve had a serious collision, you should find doctors in your area. It’s as simple as that. Since a car crash is more than enough reason to see a doctor, most insurance companies won’t bother to fuss about coverage. If everything looks good, great. If not, you’ll be in the best possible hands with our quality care. If you need NY neurologists at a Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, or Queens location, Medical Clinics of New York City has you covered. We accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation and no-fault insurance.