Should you worry about delayed pain after a car accident?

Car accidents are never a welcome addition to your day and even minor bumps with another vehicle can leave you shaken and stressed. If you are fortunate enough to walk away without major injury, it is likely your car will still need repair and that means time and hassle to and from the shop, disruption of your day and almost certainly a big bill to pay.

Let’s look at an example of an accident involving driver injury and how to approach subsequent consequences:

James was cruising around his hometown when the blur of a vehicle from an adjacent street caught his eye. The sickening sound of colliding metal came a split second later and James smacked hard against his window and door pillar. Expecting at least a scrape or bump on the head, he was surprised to open the door and feel fine. He exchanged information with the other driver, confirmed his damaged car was okay to drive, and headed to his local shop to arrange repairs. He didn’t feel any pain and chose not to follow up with a doctor. Should he be concerned about potential delayed pain?

The short answer is yes. In fact, many accident victims don’t notice an injury for several days or even a week, long after the stress of the event is gone. Why the delay?

The science behind delayed injury symptoms

In the heat of a stressful and often sudden situation, the human body releases a burst of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol to help cope with the trauma. A spike in heart rate and difficulty breathing are also common occurrences and adrenaline in particular is very good at masking pain. When adrenaline slides back to its normal state, pain from an impact comes alive. With that knowledge in hand, you should be aware of potential issues and take preventative steps to ease the blow of common car accident injuries.

Three common delayed-reaction car accident injuries

Whiplash is one of the most prevalent accident injuries, affecting muscles and tendons that can remain hidden for a day or many weeks. Soft tissue swells and bruises while pain often settles in much later.

Head injuries such as concussions are very real possibilities. A bang on the head might not seem severe at first but even mild concussions require month of recovery.

Back pain from strains to herniated disks to strains are also common car accident fallout. Pain can migrate into sciatica or numb limbs and should be addressed by a doctor immediately.