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The Cost of Untreated Pain Over Time

Written by: ChiroCare of Florida
April 20, 2018

Do you have a pain or discomfort that you have taught yourself to cope with over time? Were you involved in an automobile accident or other mishap that caused a minor injury, which has grown into a life-altering problem?

While you may believe you are handling the problem until it ceases, the opposite is most likely true. Let’s take a look at the real costs of letting pain go untreated over time. Your body - and your wallet - will thank you. You could be preventing thousands in costs over the long term.

The First Signs of Pain

For the purposes of this piece, let’s look at the possible progression of neck pain as a result of an automobile accident over time.

The first signs and symptoms will usually develop within 24 hours of the injury, and may include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Memory disturbances

Even if this pain is considerably mild, it is important to visit your doctor immediately following the accident. Your doctor can help to identify any risk factors for a more serious injury. In some cases, they may think an x-ray is necessary. In many cases, they will recommend some type of rehabilitation and manual therapy, such as massage therapy or chiropractic care.

Weeks Following the Accident

Often, the symptoms following an accident can be delayed for days or even weeks. Sometimes a headache is just a headache. But if you were recently involved in a car accident, neck or head pain could indicate a more serious injury that wasn't discovered at the time of the accident.

The following types of pain may not appear for days or even weeks following your accident:

Headaches – Pay attention to the location and severity of the headache. A serious headache days or weeks following an accident can be related to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Increase in neck pain – This is a sign of whiplash, which commonly does not emerge until several days after an accident.

Abdominal pain - Internal, soft-tissue injuries can be very serious -- even fatal -- if left untreated. If you experience abdominal pain after an accident (which may surface days after the incident), get immediate medical attention. Internal bleeding also may cause headaches, dizziness, and deep bruising.

Emotional pain and suffering – Days or weeks following an accident, you may experience depression, anxiety, or even PTSD. This could be related to the actual incident, a result of physical injuries, or both. Brain injuries also may cause emotional pain or personality changes.

The Cost of Waiting to be Treated

If you have attempted to use OTC medications or other forms of self-treatment to cope with your neck pain, there is a good chance that over time the pain will become progressively more severe.

Depending on the severity of your neck injury, there is a number of treatment options that will be necessary after a prolonged period of time left untreated. There is a very good chance that if you are still experiencing neck pain, you are suffering from whiplash. The monetary costs are outlined below:

Average cost of OTC pain medicine per bottle: $5 - $25

You've probably already been spending money on over-the-counter pain remedies to cope. How much, how frequently, and whether you buy a name brand, all factor in to your total costs.

Average cost of physical exam: $50 - $200

First, your doctor will give you a physical exam to determine the severity of your injury. This physical exam tests your pain and range of motion in order to determine the muscles that are not functioning. After your physical exam, you will either have x-rays taken, or other imaging tests that will either confirm or rule out whiplash. MRI scans and CAT scans are common, if regular x-rays do not pick up the whiplash at first attempt.

Average cost of x-rays: $260 - $500

Average cost of MRI scan: $2,000 - $2,500

Average cost of CAT scan: $600 - $1,700

After this, patients of whiplash have typically have two options. Your doctor will either prescribe you pain medication, or you may start a rehabilitation program or physical therapy.

Average cost of prescription pain medications: $8 - $142

Average cost of physical therapy per session: $50 - $350

Average cost of rehabilitation: $30 - $100

Many cases of whiplash will heal themselves, but you won't know if yours will. You should never forego treatment. This could include rest, special exercises, and specialized medication. If you are pursuing legal action, make sure to keep all records of your medical care to help strengthen your case in court. This includes medical documents, receipts from medications or equipment, and your doctor’s records.

If you were to only receive 1 OTC pain medication, physical exam, imaging test, prescription medication, and therapy session, you can expect a total of...

Total Cost of Untreated Pain: $353 - $3,217

This is without additional costs, ongoing medications, ongoing therapies, or other costs incurred as your pain continues to worsen and impact other areas of your health.

Additional Costs

On top of the medical costs, it will cost you more in your injury claim if you do not seek medical attention as soon as you start feeling the symptoms of whiplash (or any other pain). When you let pain go untreated, it becomes harder and harder to prove that your injury was a direct result of an accident.

Settlement values or trial verdicts for whiplash vary greatly, but most cases of mild to moderate whiplash will be valued between $2,500 and $10,000. You also need to consider the compensation you will be missing out on if you need to stay home from work as a result of letting your pain worsen. This, of course, varies depending on your salary and the number of days taken off.

Although you may feel as though you are strong enough to fight through the discomfort you are feeling after an accident, your body’s pain will ultimately catch up to you. In order to protect your health and get the compensation you deserve, make sure to schedule an examination with your physician as soon as possible, and take care of your body during the sensitive time following an accident.


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