For those in the know, Acupuncture is often a first stop for any new injury or pain, but for the Acupuncture Newbie, a Motor Vehicle Accident often heralds their first experience with Acupuncture treatment.
If you've ever been in a car accident, or MVA, you know how even a minor accident can have lasting effects on the body. The whiplash, neck pain, headaches, low back pain - its far from an excess of wonderfulness. My personal and clinical experience shows that the worst of the pain can take 10 days to 2 weeks to fully manifest and this fact often lulls people into a false sense of security about the relatively minor nature of any new accident.
Ironically, it is during these first two weeks that you can create the most change through Acupuncture, massage and physical therapy thereby heading off the worst effects of a new accident! So the message of the motor vehicle accident day is this:
Get Treatment Immediately
Car Accident Recovery - Treat Early, Recover Quickly
If you or someone you know is in an auto accident, even a relatively minor one, its imperative to be mindful of the way you use your body over the next few weeks and to seek treatment immediately. The more you pay attention to the use and treatment of your body in those early days, the better you will feel and the faster you will recover.
I say this both from professional clinical experience AND from personal experience. In May 2010 at 4 months pregnant my husband and a friend and I were driving home from dinner and got rear-ended due to a reckless driver who cut us off. It didn't feel like a whole lot at the time, but our car got lifted and the back bumper was completely crumpled (mind you we'd only had this new car 10 days! Oy vey...). Being pregnant I was very nervous, of course, so we went to urgent care and predictably I checked out just fine.
Having a PT for a husband, I started physical therapy at home immediately, got weekly massage, acupuncture and osteopathic care. With all the extra laxity in my joints from the pregnancy, my back did not feel good to begin with - the accident therefore did not do me any favors. But with such frequent and regular treatment, I recovered easily and well. I kept up that frequency of treatment for a little over a month, and then saw each of my providers once a month through the rest of my pregnancy just to be safe rather than sorry.
Get Treatment - Its Covered
While it can be hard to keep up with seeing multiple providers on a regular basis, if you can work out the time constraints it is completely worth it - approaching the body from multiple avenues ensures that the body heals on multiple levels concurrently leading to a speedier recovery. And there's no financial reason not to, because its covered!
In Oregon, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy and all medical treatment related to your accident are all covered 100% by your PIP or personal injury protection coverage up to a max of $15,000 for all medical treatment. In a severe accident if you seek a lot of western medical care or need surgery, this can disappear very quickly, but if pursuing primarily alternative treatments it should be sufficient to get you through your injury.
Course of Treatment
I see the average MVA patient for an average of 12 treatments over the course of 3-4 months. This allows for twice weekly treatment if necessary for the first 2-3 weeks, and once a week treatment thereafter for 4-6 additional weeks plus a follow up one month hence. Starting with a 90 minute combined Acupuncture and Massage session is my general recommendation to begin.
Accounting for both 60 minute sessions and 90 minute combined Acupuncture and Massage/Cupping sessions over the course of treatment including a heat lamp if indicated, this ends up costing your insurance somewhere between $1,500-$2,000. Considering that one trip to the ER can cost the same, I'd say acupuncture treatment is quite a bargain and not expensive enough to make a major dent in your PIP amount available.
My ideal combination of modalities for auto accident patients is to see them combine acupuncture, massage and physical therapy. My 90 minute combined acupuncture + massage treatments generally provide enough massage for the average MVA patient, and your physical therapist will likely do some manual therapy (read "therapeutic deep tissue massage or myofascial release" here if you're unfamiliar with that term) and meet your body's massage needs as well. Physical therapy can be essential to ensure that your range of motion and function are not impaired by the effects of the accident. Combined with the pain relieving and muscle relaxing aspect of acupuncture, it is a winning combination for quick and efficient recovery.
So if you know someone who has been in an accident and needs help getting better fast, please think about sending them my way. My personal and professional experience with motor vehicle accidents makes me well familiar with treatment and recovery, and insurance billing is a specialty of mine to make treatment and recovery as simple as booking online!
Until next time,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.