Delayed Pain After A Car Accident

whiplash treatment after car accident

Back Pain-

Some car accident injuries like back pain don’t always show symptoms until days or weeks later. And sometimes that undiagnosed and untreated pain lingers for years. During impact of an car accident your body is still in motion until something stops it, usually a seatbelt, airbag, steering wheel or windshield. This violent impact can severely injure many parts of your body, especially your back. Thus affecting your lumbar vertebrae (lower back), thoracic vertebrae (upper back), and cervical vertebrae (neck). Additionally, the different types of back injuries from an car accident include: 

  • Herniated Discs -  The stress on your back from an car accident can cause a herniated disc. Though you may feel better in a few weeks, it could take up to 6 before the pain completely goes away. 
  • Sciatica - In an car accident the lower back may experience traumatic injuries. Those injuries can cause sciatica. When the sciatic nerve is pinched or injured it can radiate pain along one side of the body. It can also cause lower back pain, and discomfort in one leg. In most cases it’s healed in 1-2 weeks. Though it has been known to linger for months.
  • Spinal injury - This is the most severe type of back injury from an car accident. The varying nature of car accident spinal injuries can range from a simple ache to paralysis or even death. If untreated or misdiagnosed over time partial damage to the spine can worsen. Thus, affecting quality of life for entirety.  
  • Sprains and Strains - Another common back injury due to an car accident is a back sprain and strain. Oftentimes the pain goes away within 2 weeks, but can last longer. 
  • Whiplash - Because whiplash is most often associated with neck injury you might not realize that it’s the cause of your back pain too. Typically the pain goes away in a few days, while the symptoms can take up to 3 months to disappear. 

Neck Pain

A universal word for several different injuries is whiplash. It is by far the most common neck injury. For car accident victims it’s very common to experience this several days later. Whiplash can linger for months, even years as it’s often misdiagnosed or ignored as a significant injury. Furthermore, if left untreated chronic neck pain and other long-lasting health issues can affect health, work, and day-to-day life. Whiplash has been known to affect the brainstem as well as the spine. A spinal injury such as a herniated disc can also cause neck and shoulder pain. Since there are varying degrees of severity it’s not uncommon for car accident victims to suffer long-term side effects. Additionally, whiplash can lead to other conditions such as:

  • Chronic Pain and Soreness of Neck Pain and Soreness
  • Cognitive, Depression and Anxiety Issues
  • Stiffness and Long-term Mobility Issues
  • Vertigo
  • Recurring Headaches
  • Vertebrae Misalignment
  • Degenerative Disc disease

Rib Pain- 

A crucial part of the body that surrounds and protects vital organs is the rib cage. If the protective cage is compromised, the resulting injuries can range from minor to life-threatening. When there is an car accident the intense gravitational force is applied to the chest and rib area, a variety of injuries can occur. If left untreated internal, soft-tissue injuries can be very serious, even fatal. So after an accident it is crucial to get immediate medical attention if you experience abdominal pain. Even if it’s days later. As it could be a sign of a fractured rib or injuries to internal organs, like the heart.

Most rib injuries following an car accident:

  • Bruising: Bruised ribs are often in conjunction with car accidents. It’s usually a result of hitting the steering wheel or the restriction of the seatbelt. What can also lead to bruised ribs is strain or injury to the cartilage, tissue, and muscles of the chest wall. Symptoms can include chest pain, tenderness, swelling, visible discoloration and chest spasms.
  • Costochondral separation: This injury is the separation of ribs from the cartilage that connect the ribs to the breastbone.
  • Flail chest injury: Of all rib injuries this is the most severe. It occurs when three or more ribs are broken in two or more places. Thus resulting in the decreasing integrity of the rib cage, and loss of its normal shape. 
  • Fractured or broken ribs:  Fractures and broken ribs can occur when intense gravitational force is applied to the bones of the ribcage. The resulting damage can be very painful. Coughing, laughing or even breathing can intensify the painful symptoms of chest pain. Though it’s not the worst of car accident injuries, it can be extremely painful for a long time.
  • Intercostal strains: The muscles that attach rib bones to one another are intercostal muscles. When there is an intercostal strain from an car accident various muscles, including your chest muscles are strained, pulled, or torn. Though it’s not a serious injury it can cause lasting severe pain.
  • Soft tissue injuries: The surrounding muscles and tissues make it possible for your ribcage to expand and contract as you breathe and move. So any blow to the ribs can injure the soft tissues. This injury can cause it to be painful to move, respiratory difficulty, and cause complications. 

Shoulder Pain-

The joint that has the greatest range of motion in our bodies is the shoulder. Thus, the shoulder is more susceptible to injury compared to other areas of the body. In an car accident there are several different ways a shoulder can be injured. All which can have long term pain if not treated properly. One of the ways is whiplash. Though whiplash is often referred to neck or head injuries, it can affect the shoulder too. It can limit range of motion and cause stiffness, and may not appear until several days later. A herniated disc, which signals a spinal injury could also cause shoulder pain. Another cause for shoulder pain could be a fractured clavicle, or collarbone. Any of these will severely limit shoulder movement. If the humerus is fractured it can lead to a very swollen shoulder which then decreases range of motion and causes significant pain. Then there is the dislocation of the shoulder joint. It is a common cause of shoulder pain resulting from an car accident. 

 Causes of Car Accident Shoulder Pain- A variety of sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal injuries of the shoulder can occur from car accidents. The most common causes of shoulder injuries due to a car accident are:

  • Torn rotator cuff – Is a tear in the group of muscles surrounding the shoulder. 
  • Soft tissue injury – When a person is thrown around the cabin of a vehicle it can cause damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All which are soft tissue. 
  • Whiplash – Whiplash pain can radiate down the shoulders and arms and can also cause muscle stiffness and limited range of mobility.

It is extremely important to address the pain that may follow such an injury. Recovery time can be prolonged without the proper diagnoses and supplemental required treatment. 

Shoulder injury symptoms to look out for include:

  • An agonizingly tender and stiff shoulder that hurts more at night; may interrupt sleeping
  • Burning sensations
  • Loss of motion
  • Numbness
  • Pale, blue, or otherwise discolored shoulder area 
  • Shoulder pain in a precise area that may worsen with physical exertion
  • Tingling, lack of feeling, weakness, or inflammation in the shoulder
  • Trouble moving arm or arms in any direction without pain
  • Sudden, concentrated pain in the shoulder area

Headache Pain-

After an car accident you may experience a minor headache that lasts only 30 minutes or have a painful, even debilitating one. Which can take up to a few months to recover from. Or your symptom could be of another type of head injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or concussion. These more severe types of head injuries can be chronic years after the car accident. Thus it is vital to pay special attention to the location and severity of the pain. Additionally it is crucial to seek timely medical attention and be proactive with early documentation. Common head injuries that may cause headaches include:

  • Concussions: Occurs when the brain sustains microscopic damage to its blood vessels and nerves. It is one of the most common types of a traumatic brain injury. And though most people recover quickly from a concussion, many live with post-concussion issues for months or even years.
  • Contusions: Is when your brain slams against your skull during the impact of an car accident. Thus, causing bruising of the brain in multiple locations.  
  • Diffuse Axonal Injuries (DAI): Messages from your brain that communicate with nerve fibers are known as axons. So when your brain slams into your skull, the force of the impact can stretch and rip your axons.
  • Intracranial Hematomas: This is ruptured brain vessels that bleed into your skull or brain. The pressure on your brain caused by the bleeding can be life-threatening.
  • Whiplash- Occurs when the neck jerks back or forward abruptly. This sudden movement causes damage to your neck’s soft tissues and nerves. The resulting pain can take weeks to months to disappear. 


Seek a pain specialist immediately.

It could be the result of soft tissue damage, spinal injury, pressure from a herniated disc, or whiplash.

You may have a fractured rib cage or have injuries to your internal organs.

If left untreated or undiagnosed range of motion will decrease causing tingling, stiffness and soreness.

You may have experienced whiplash which can linger or it could be from a spinal injury.

Often the car accident victim doesn’t feel immediate pain. Also, damage to your brain cannot be seen so it’s difficult to diagnose at the time of the accident.

The body is in protective mode so pain from the injury is not recognized immediately.

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Auburndale Chiropractic

214 S Main St
Auburndale, FL 33823

(863) 968-0088