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I Was in a Car Accident Several Days Ago: Why Am I Just Now Feeling Pain?

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Every year in the United States, millions of motor vehicle accidents happen, and many people are injured as a result. In New Jersey alone, more than 270,000 vehicle crashes happen each year, and more than one-fifth of those result in injuries.

A lot of people think if they walk away from an accident without any “major” injuries, they’re OK. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. While some accidents cause severe injuries with immediate impacts and symptoms, other accidents cause subtle injuries that may not become apparent until days later.

Delayed symptoms can still be caused by serious injuries and result in long-lasting disability. That’s one major reason why it’s so important to have a medical evaluation after any car accident — just to be sure you’re truly OK.

Led by Evan O’Brien, MD, our team at Woodbury Spine is skilled at recognizing injuries from auto accidents, including subtle issues that may not become fully apparent until days or even weeks later. Here’s why some auto accidents cause delayed symptoms and why having a medical evaluation after a crash is so important for your health and well-being.

Car accidents and your body

Considering the weight of an average motor vehicle, you’d think most people would be in a lot of pain — even after a seemingly “minor” collision. But the fact is, many times, people walk around after an accident and think they feel fine. Why? Mainly, it has to do with how our bodies react to traumatic injuries.

Adrenaline and endorphins

Immediately following a traumatic event like a car accident, your body produces chemicals — mostly adrenaline and endorphins — to help your body cope.

Adrenaline is responsible for the flight-or-fight response, giving your body what it needs to get out of a dangerous situation. Endorphins are “pleasure chemicals” most often associated with activities like running or intense exercise, but they also happen after traumatic experiences — again, as a way to help your body cope.

After an accident, your brain picks up on stress signals, sending your whole body into “protection mode.” Triggering the release of adrenaline and endorphins is part of that response system, designed to help keep you safe from more harm. To some degree, that means masking or postponing pain signals.

Delayed pain

Of course, adrenaline and endorphins wear off over time. The amount of time that takes depends on the trauma you’ve experienced, your overall wellness, and the unique way your body reacts to stress, along with other factors.

Once those chemicals return to normal levels, it’s common to feel a lot of aches and pains, even though you might not have felt any major symptoms right after your accident. By the time you feel those pain signals, inflammation and other issues are taking place — issues that really should be treated as soon after an accident as possible.

Some of the most commonly delayed symptoms include:

  • Back pain

  • Neck pain

  • Headaches

  • Belly pain or nausea

  • Vision problems

  • Numbness and tingling in your limbs

  • Behavior or mood changes

Ideally, you want to have a medical evaluation right after an accident. It’s also important to watch for any of these symptoms during the days and weeks following the event. Without prompt treatment, many auto accident injuries can get worse and even cause long-term or permanent disability.

Early evaluation is the key to recovery

If you’ve had a car accident or if you’re noticing delayed symptoms of an accident, scheduling an exam and evaluation is the best way to maintain your health and avoid more serious problems. To schedule your evaluation with Woodbury Spine in Woodbury, New Jersey, call us or book an appointment online today.

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