When you’ve been involved in a serious car accident, your car isn’t the only thing that undergoes a significant change; there’s a good chance that you’ll experience some significant changes, too. You might start to experience pain in your neck that makes it hard to work on the computer for long periods of time or shoulder soreness that makes lifting heavy objects nearly impossible.
Even if you’ve been healthy your entire life, one car accident can change everything. At first, you might think your pain is normal (you were in a car accident after all), but when you realize that your pain isn’t going away — or that it’s getting worse — it’s time to trace your pain back to the source.
Acute vs Chronic Pain After a Car Accident
Pain is the most common symptom following a car accident. In order to treat your symptoms, you need to understand the nature of your pain. Medical professionals divide physical pain into two distinct categories. Acute pain occurs suddenly, typically following an injury. Although it hurts really bad at first, this type of pain lessens over time. Conversely, chronic pain is persistent. It sticks around like an unwanted guest and never really improves.
As far as science and medicine are concerned, we’ve got a pretty good handle on acute pain. Chronic pain however is more complex. Even after physical structures in the body have healed completely, chronic pain can still cause significant discomfort. This has baffled doctors and scientists for years. The important thing to keep in mind is that acute pain is temporary while chronic pain is permanent.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain in the wake of a car accident, you’re going to keep feeling that pain until you seek help. Some research suggests that long-term chronic pain sufferers experience physical and chemical changes in their brains. Essentially, their brains become abnormally accustomed to sending pain signals, which causes them to fire without any discretion.
When you can’t get relief for your chronic pain, it often takes a toll on your mental health, too. Depression, withdrawal, and irritability towards others have all been connected with individuals suffering from chronic pain, which means your chronic pain can also have an effect on your friends, family, and coworkers. The consequences of a single car accident can resonate through nearly every facet of your life in the form of chronic pain, but not everyone’s symptoms behave the same way; sometimes symptoms are delayed.
Why Some Symptoms Are Delayed
After a car accident, it’s normal for your thoughts to feel a little jumbled as you sort out what just happened and whether or not you feel normal. Your experience is going to be different than every other person who has been in a car accident, which means you could find yourself lost in a mental fog or anxious about what’s to come in life. With mental, emotional, and physical trauma all occurring simultaneously, it’s easy to see why many symptoms are delayed. For many, it’s simply too difficult to notice during such a chaotic time.
Several days after you car accident, you may experience any number of the following symptoms:
- Headaches: Common after car accidents but potentially indicative of a more serious problem, like a concussion or blood clot.
- Neck or Shoulder Pain/Stiffness: Often referred to as “whiplash,” this type of pain is almost always linked with car accidents.
- Back Pain: Experiencing back pain after a car accident is oftentimes linked with damage to muscles, ligaments, and nerves in the back. It could also indicate that something has gone awry with the vertebrae.
- Abdominal Pain/Swelling: Internal bleeding can occur for several hours or even days before a person realizes that they are injured. This is a potentially fatal condition that must be treated immediately. Other symptoms linked with internal bleeding are dark purple bruises, dizziness, and fainting.
- Numbness: There’s nothing normal about losing feeling in your arms and hands after a car accident. This type of numbness could be the result of spinal damage.
- Change in Personality/Physical Function: Concussions are another common symptom of serious car accidents. If you are having trouble thinking, remembering things, moving your body, hearing, seeing, or controlling your personality, you may be suffering from a traumatic brain injury.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Car crashes, like many events that cause PTSD, are loud, sudden, and scary. People suffering from PTSD after a car accident may experience vivid memories of their accident at unexpected times, causing them to become anxious. These flashbacks can be dangerous, so it’s important to consult a medical professional if you experience PTSD symptoms after a crash.
Headaches Are Common After Accidents
One of the most commonly reported symptoms after a car accident is headaches. Drivers who are involved in car accidents often sustain head injuries from impacts with a windshield, side window, roof, steering wheel, unsecured objects, or passengers. Whiplash can also increase your chance of experiencing headaches. You might think that getting headaches is “normal,” but after a car accident, headaches can be a sign of something more severe on the horizon, like a concussion.
Concussions (or traumatic brain injuries) are a type of injury that occurs when a person experiences a significant impact to the head that causes their brain to be shaken around, resulting in chemical changes that affect the health and functionality of the brain. Some people experience relatively minor symptoms, and others won’t experience any symptoms until days or weeks after a car accident. After a car accident, you should request to be checked for signs of a concussion. Severe concussions can cause bleeding under the skull, otherwise known as subdural hematoma, which requires immediate medical attention. Typically, it takes 2-3 weeks to recover from a concussion.
When your neck experiences rapid back-and-forth movements during a car accident, it often results in severe neck pain. This is referred to as “whiplash,” and it’s characterized by neck pain, stiffness, and, you guessed it, headaches. This is another condition that should get better with a few weeks of rest, but medication and exercise may also be recommended for a full recovery. In some cases, individuals experience chronic neck pain after whiplash, which may require further treatment.
Neck and Shoulder Pain
Neck and shoulder pain are very common after a car accident. Depending on your experience, your neck pain could be the result of whiplash or a cervical herniation. Both of these injuries have the potential to be long-term conditions, so acquiring a diagnosis shortly after your car accident is integral to a complete recovery. Neck injuries are most commonly linked to rear-ending accidents. On the other hand, shoulder pain is more common after t-bone car accidents. Shoulder pain generally has a lower potential to be linked with a severe injury than neck pain, but it can still limit your ability to do simple tasks.
Tingling Or Numbness
It’s normal to feel a little different after a car accident. You just went through a traumatizing ordeal, and the mental, emotional, and physical scars are going to take a little getting used to. Some of your symptoms will be mild, while others will be severe, but if you start to feel tingling or numbness in your back, arms, hands, or legs, there’s a possibility that you’ve suffered a herniated disc or pinched nerve. These are spinal conditions that can be treated by a chiropractor. A chiropractor can help adjust the discs in your spine to realign them in the proper formation. Other common back injuries resulting from car accidents include pulled muscles, strained tendons, and sprained ligaments.
Abdominal Pain & Nausea
You need to listen to your body closely in the days and weeks following a car accident. If you experience abdominal pain or nausea, you could be suffering from a life-threatening condition — internal bleeding. Your seat belt is the main culprit. It performs admirably when keeping you secured to your seat, but it can also cause internal injuries as your full body weight is pressed into the belt. People have been hospitalized for injuries to the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, and bowels after a car accident.
Schedule an Appointment If You’re Dealing With Pain
Has a car accident left you with chronic pain? You’re not alone! After a car accident, there’s no guarantee that your pain will go away, so stop waiting. Consult Manasota Accident and Injury Center to receive the care you need to overcome your pain. We specialize in serving victims of vehicular trauma at our full service chiropractic clinic in Manatee County.
For top-tier chiropractic services that focus on compassionate, patient-centric care, come to Manasota Accident and Injury Center. Call (941) 751-0223 to schedule an appointment.