When Should You Worry About Pain After a Car Accident? (2023)

It’s common to feel minor aches and pain immediately after a car accident, and it’s also not unusual for pain symptoms to develop days or even weeks after a collision. In these cases, delayed pain could be a sign of a serious injury that you weren’t aware of at the time of the accident.

Even if you feel fine in the moments after a collision, always seek medical attention as soon as possible. The faster you’re examined by a medical professional, the faster you can diagnose your injury—and ensure you haven’t sustained any severe, life-threatening damage.

Even when you don’t feel pain symptoms right away, immediate medical care may help prevent chronic pain and other negative repercussions down the line. Swift intervention can protect your right to compensation after a crash. Take a look at when you should worry about pain after a car accident and what your symptoms may mean.

Is Being Sore After a Car Accident Normal?

Yes, soreness is very normal after a car accident. Accidents often involve the weight of 3,000 pounds of steel colliding into your vehicle, possibly at high speeds. Your vehicle may have screeched to halt, veered into another object, or flipped over. Any of these situations put your body in incredibly dangerous positions that could cause significant injuries.

Soreness after a car accident is typically caused by trauma to soft tissue, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Pain and stiffness may stem from an injury directly to the soft tissue or the structures around it, such as bones, joints, and organs. If minor pain after a car accident begins to worsen in the days following a crash, you should seek medical attention.

(Video) What You Need to Know About Delayed Pain After a Car Accident

How Long Does Pain Last After a Car Accident?

On average, pain after a car accident lasts between six and eight weeks. A minor soft tissue injury may heal on its own in as little as three weeks but more severe injuries may take several months to heal fully. To better understand how long your pain will last after a car crash, seek a formal diagnosis from your primary care provider (PCP) or local emergency room.

How Long Can it Take for Injuries to Show Up Following a Car Accident?

It’s a common misconception that all injuries show up right away after a wreck. More often than not, injury symptoms gradually develop over hours or days. These symptoms are called delayed pain. Delayed pain usually begins 24 to 48 hours after a crash but may take several days or even several weeks to develop, depending on the injury.

There are two reasons why it can take time for injuries to present after an accident. First, crashes cause a spike in shock and adrenaline, releasing hormones that numb your body against pain signals. Second, traumatic injuries often generate inflammation at the injury site to protect the area from further harm and momentarily mask the severity of the damage.

When Should You Worry About Pain After a Car Accident? (1)

What Symptoms Should You Look For?

It’s common to feel muscle aches and fatigue in the hours after a car accident. The stress of an accident alone can deplete your energy and make you feel sore all over. However, never chalk up aches and pains to stress alone. Always visit a doctor to confirm you have not been injured.

If you have not visited a medical professional and begin to experience delayed pain symptoms, there is a chance you may have suffered a serious crash injury. Take a look at the delayed symptoms you should look for that could signify severe car accident injuries.


Headaches can be a symptom of many injuries, several of which require medical care to prevent further damage. Headaches at the front of the skull may indicate a type of brain injury, such as a concussion. Headaches accompanied by memory loss, insomnia, nausea, and vomiting may be a sign of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Traumatic brain injuries require immediate medical attention.

(Video) What to do after a Car Accident : Nick Peters, MD Treats Dallas Patient in Emergency Room

Aside from trauma to the skull, blunt force to the neck may also cause headaches. Headaches located at the bottom of the skull may be a sign of a whiplash injury. Whiplash happens when the neck and head rapidly bend backward and forward and will cause neck pain and soreness. Whiplash is one of the most common neck injuries people suffer after a crash, especially in rear-end collisions.

Neck Pain

Neck pain after a car accident is very common, and delayed aches in the neck often indicate whiplash. Whiplash injuries are often referred to as neck sprains and neck strains since they tear soft tissues in the cervical spine. Whiplash-associated disorders damage the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the neck and upper back. Without treatment, neck pain and stiffness can become chronic.

Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain after a crash may begin at the scene of the accident or several hours later. Most commonly, this pain is caused by a seatbelt injury to the shoulder like a strain. Shoulder pain with swelling and redness by the neck may also be connected to whiplash-associated disorders.

In severe cases, shoulder pain may occur with chest pain after a car accident. If you’re experiencing pain, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat, visit a doctor immediately to ensure you haven’t sustained heart damage.

Back Pain

Delayed back pain after a collision is not something to be taken lightly. Back injuries are frequently caused by damage to crucial structures in the spine, like vertebrae, spinal discs, and nerves. Lower back pain could be caused by a herniated disc or a spinal disc that’s been partially ruptured by the force of impact. Without treatment, a herniated disc may cause recurring back pain.

A fractured vertebrae may cause upper back pain. In severe cases, a fractured vertebra might send small splinters of bone into the spinal canal and injure the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury may cause paralysis—the permanent loss of function in the arms or legs.

Stomach Pain

Delayed stomach pain may be caused by striking the abdomen against the steering wheel, seat belt, or airbag. Abdominal pain accompanied by bruises, swelling, nausea, and vomiting may be a sign of an internal injury, like internal bleeding or a blood clot. Internal injuries can be life-threatening when left untreated, so be sure to visit a doctor immediately for stomach pain after an accident.

(Video) Spinal Pain Mapping - Back Pain After Car Accident Case Study by Dr.Tony Mork

Numbness or Tingling

Numbness and tingling are two symptoms that are frequently associated with nerve damage or spinal cord injury. Your spinal cord is essentially a bundle of nerves. When your spinal cord or one of the other seven trillion nerves in your body are damaged, they can interrupt communication between your brain and the rest of your body. This lapse in communication is what causes numbness or tingling.

Numbness and lower back pain is often caused by a pinched nerve caused by a herniated disc. Numbness and tingling in the extremities like the hands, arms, feet, and legs are often caused by direct damage to the spinal cord. If you experience numbness or tingling, you should seek Medical attention to ensure you do not lose feeling permanently.


Dizziness after a car crash often feels like you’re going to lose balance or can’t see straight. In most cases, delayed dizziness means you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion. If you’re experiencing dizziness, fainting, or memory loss, visit a doctor for a diagnosis.

Behavioral Changes

While the trauma of a car accident can make anyone feel on edge, there’s a difference between minor stress and severe behavioral changes. Changes in sleeping or eating habits could indicate a brain injury. anxiety, depression, or flashbacks might be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even though these are emotional symptoms and not physical, they still require care.

When Should You Worry About Pain After a Car Accident? (2)

(Video) Back Pain Treatment After a Car Accident | Portland Car Accident Chiropractor and Massage Team

A doctor with a patient’s x-ray film

When Should You Worry About Pain After a Car Accident?

If pain continues to worsen in the days after an accident, you may have suffered a serious injury. You should worry about any pain that causes you to lose function in your arms or legs or if pain symptoms do not alleviate with treatment options like medication.

Most importantly, you should worry about any pain for which you have not received medical care. Your primary care physician (PCP) or emergency room technician should assess your pain as soon after an accident as possible, even if you initially didn’t believe the injury was serious. A doctor can order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to assess the damage and prescribe a treatment plan.

How to Deal with Pain After a Car Accident

Pain after a car accident should be treated immediately. Immediate treatment will reduce the risk of the injury worsening and causing lasting damage. Depending on the type of injury, a doctor may recommend a treatment plan for several weeks to address the issue. Treatment may include physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, or prescription medication.

Unfortunately, weeks of medical care will incur expensive medical bills. Kentucky is a choice no-fault state, so you will likely need to file a personal injury claim with your own insurance company to receive compensation for your damages. If your damages max out your insurance policy, you can work with a personal injury attorney to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

At Bryant Law Center, our car accident attorneys have decades of experience fighting for fair compensation for individuals injured by other drivers in a car crash. Do not suffer pain after a car accident without exploring your options with a lawyer. Contact the attorneys at Bryant Law Center today for a free case evaluation to learn more about how to seek compensation for your accident injuries.


How long should pain last after car accident? ›

After your car accident, in general, expect soreness to linger for up to six weeks. Normal pain after a car accident usually includes minor soreness. Commonly, car accident victims experience pain in the neck or back.

How do you know if you are bleeding internally after an accident? ›

For injuries, an imaging test may be all that's necessary. An X-ray shows an image of your bones. A CT scan is an advanced X-ray that can see bones, tissues, and blood vessels. Angiography is an imaging test that can carefully examine individual blood vessels.

What should you do if your body hurts after a car accident? ›

Five Ways to Deal with Soreness After an Accident
  1. Staying Hydrated. Water is extremely helpful to muscles in general, and even more so when they're healing. ...
  2. Massage Therapy. ...
  3. Physical Therapy. ...
  4. Stretching and Yoga. ...
  5. Getting Enough Rest.
8 Dec 2020

What is the most common injury after a car accident? ›

Whiplash is the most common type of injury from car accidents. In contrast, minor injuries like strains, sprains, tissue damage, and bruises account for half of the injuries brought to the ER, while broken bones account for less than 5% of injuries but lead to half of the hospitalizations.

Does pain get worse after a car accident? ›

However, it's important to know that delayed pain from injuries is extremely common after auto accidents. Over the course of hours or days after a car crash, you may start to feel worse and symptoms of injury may begin to arise.

Why does your body hurt so much after a car accident? ›

Trauma from a collision can severely damage the soft tissues of the body. Muscle pain is often caused by soft tissue injuries, like strains, sprains, and whiplash. Your body's hundreds of muscles are necessary to keep you mobile. After an accident, these muscles can become stretched, torn, and swollen.

What are 4 signs that internal bleeding may be taking place? ›

The signs and symptoms that suggest concealed internal bleeding depend on where the bleeding is inside the body, but may include:
  • pain at the injured site.
  • swollen, tight abdomen.
  • nausea and vomiting.
  • pale, clammy, sweaty skin.
  • breathlessness.
  • extreme thirst.
  • unconsciousness.

What are the three big signs of internal bleeding? ›

Symptoms of moderate to severe internal bleeding include:
  • light-headedness or dizziness.
  • a headache, often severe.
  • diarrhea, often a dark, brown or black color.
  • general weakness.
  • unexplained exhaustion.
  • muscle and joint pain, aching, and weakness.
  • lower blood pressure than normal.
  • confusion, memory loss, or disorientation.

What should you watch after a car accident? ›

Common Car Accident Injury Symptoms to Watch Out For
  • Headaches.
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain.
  • Back Pain.
  • Nausea and Abdominal Pain.
  • Swelling, Stiffness, or Tenderness.
  • Bruising and Contusions.
  • Numbness or Tingling Sensations.
  • Changes in Mood or Behavior.

How long after car accident Can You Feel injury? ›

Car accident injuries usually manifest themselves immediately, but some may take days or even weeks to appear. In some circumstances, a life-threatening injury could worsen for weeks before a person realizes the issue originated from a recent car accident.

Should you take ibuprofen after a car accident? ›

Both a medical professional and a chiropractor may suggest to immediately take and over-the-counter mild pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to aid in lowering the immediate swelling and reduce the pressure of stiffness.

Can you have a delayed reaction to a car accident? ›

Car accidents sometimes result in obvious injuries, like broken bones; other times, an injury may not be apparent until hours, days, or weeks later. Sadly, delayed injuries are very common, especially in cases where the victim did not seek medical help after the accident.

Who gets more hurt in a car accident? ›

Females are more likely to be injured in an accident, but males are involved in more fatal accidents. In 2018, 36,560 people died in vehicle accidents in the US. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2018, 71% of deaths that resulted from vehicle accidents were males.

What are 3 types of injuries that can result from a car crash? ›

Possible Injuries After Car Accident 2022
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) ...
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis (quadriplegia/tetraplegia and paraplegia) ...
  • Back Injuries. ...
  • Burns. ...
  • Internal injuries. ...
  • Fractures and broken bones. ...
  • Disfiguring facial injuries and scars. ...
  • Limb loss and amputation.

What are the 3 most common things to cause a car accident? ›

texting while driving. lack of experience, especially in poor road or weather conditions. failure to use seatbelts.

How do hospitals detect internal bleeding? ›

Imaging tests (usually an ultrasound, CT scan, or both) can identify whether internal bleeding is present.

How do doctors identify internal bleeding? ›

An endoscopy procedure may help your doctor see if and where you have GI bleeding and the bleeding's cause. Doctors most often use upper GI endoscopy and colonoscopy to test for acute GI bleeding in the upper and lower GI tracts.

Where are the most common places for internal bleeding? ›

The internal bleeding may occur within tissues, organs, or in cavities of the body including the head, spinal canal, chest, and abdomen. Examples of other potential sites of bleeding include the eye and within tissues that line the heart, muscles, and joints.

Should I get checked over after a car accident? ›

However, if you have any doubts, you should get your car checked to make sure everything is in good working order. If you don't, it could invalidate your insurance and you'll be left without cover.

How your body feels after a car accident? ›

Some symptoms of what to expect physically after a car accident include headache, shoulder and neck pain, back pain, abdominal pain, bruising or numbness, and emotional distress. Headaches could possibly be due to a concussion, brain injury, blood clot, or whiplash.

What should you not say after a car accident? ›

Don't say “I'm sorry

DON'T! A simple “I'm sorry” can be used to show that you admitted guilt and responsibility for the accident. Even if you mean “I'm sorry you're late for work” or “I'm sorry you are hurt” – try to avoid using the words “I'm sorry”.

Which painkiller is best for injury? ›

NSAIDs. Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These reduce inflammation caused by injury, arthritis, or fever. NSAIDs also relieve pain associated with menstruation, dental pain, and headache.

Can pain be delayed after car accident? ›

Delayed pain after a car accident is an injury symptom that begins 24 to 48 hours after the incident occurred. Sometimes it can take even longer. Delayed pain can mask the symptoms of a severe injury, so you should see a doctor immediately after a car crash or as soon as pain develops.

What is strong pain relief? ›

Strong opioids include drugs such as morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and buprenorphine. Strong opioids are often used in combination with other pain killers that help nerve pain such as gabapentin, pregabalin or amitriptyline.

Why am I so tired days after car accident? ›

Excessive Fatigue and Traumatic Brain Injuries

The emotional toll of a car accident can leave a person feeling depressed, anxious, or angry, causing excessive fatigue or sleepiness. Excessive sleeping or fatigue can also be a sign of a serious physical problem, like a traumatic brain injury.

What are the symptoms of delayed shock? ›

Headaches, back and neck pain, and numbness or tingling are just some of the symptoms people can experience hours or even days after they walk away from an accident. If you have abdominal pain, it could be a sign that you have an internal injury.

How long after an accident can you have internal bleeding? ›

However, severe bruising could indicate a more serious injury. Internal Bleeding: Internal bleeding, also known as the “seatbelt syndrome,” can take anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days after a motor vehicle accident to appear.

Does a car crash count as trauma? ›

A car accident can result in mental and emotional stress and trauma that can negatively affect someone's daily life. Although most people may show more concern for physical injuries, they should worry just as much about the emotional distress caused by the auto accident.

What happens to your body when you are rear ended? ›

The body snaps back against the seat thanks to the seatbelt. The skull and spine are quickly forced back into the seat. Because nobody in the car is bracing for an accident, the motion is even more violent. As a result, many rear-end collisions lead to internal, soft tissue, and spine injuries.

Can a car accident be traumatizing? ›

Even minor accidents can lead to psychological distress and lingering trauma, such as: Mood swings, causing feelings of anger, frustration and guilt. High levels of stress and anxiety that doesn't go away. Difficulty sleeping, including insomnia and recurring nightmares.

What injuries can occur during a side impact collision? ›

Common injuries from side impact accidents include whiplash, spinal injuries, blunt-force trauma, broken bones, and numerous other types of injuries.
Head Trauma And Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Persistent headache.
  • Numbness throughout the body.
  • Confusion.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

What should I watch after whiplash? ›

These are the most common symptoms of whiplash:
  • Neck pain.
  • Neck stiffness.
  • Shoulder pain.
  • Low back pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Pain in your arm or hand.
  • Numbness in your arm or hand.
  • Ringing in your ears.

How does a car accident affect you emotionally? ›

A major car accident can cause PTSD, extreme anxiety, depression and debilitating phobias. Studies have shown that crash-related mental traumas can have symptoms lasting up to a year after an auto accident, especially for children.

What are the 5 factors of accident sequence? ›

Five factors leading to an accident
  • Five factors leading to an accident.
  • Ancestry & social environment.
  • Fault of person.
  • Unsafe act/mechanical or physical hazard.
  • Accident.
  • Injury.

Where is the most common place for a car accident? ›

Here are four of the most common places where car accidents take place:
  1. Parking Lots. While accidents in parking lots aren't likely to be as serious, they're quite common. ...
  2. Stop Signs. Stop signs are another common place for car accidents. ...
  3. Rural Highways. ...
  4. Two-Lane Roads.

What time of day do most car accidents happen? ›

  • Monday. – Time with the most fatal crashes: 3 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. ...
  • Tuesday. – Time with the most fatal crashes: 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. ...
  • Wednesday. – Time with the most fatal crashes: 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. ...
  • Thursday. – Time with the most fatal crashes: 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. ...
  • Friday. ...
  • Saturday. ...
  • Sunday.
16 Aug 2022

How long does it take nerves to heal after car accident? ›

While physical or occupational therapy is often required, full recovery within six months to a year is common.

Can a car accident cause pain months later? ›

The most common symptoms of delayed injuries include:

Chronic headaches. Abdominal pain. Back, neck, or shoulder pain. Muscle stiffness.

How long can whiplash pain last for? ›

Most people who have whiplash feel better within a few weeks and don't seem to have any lasting effects from the injury. However, some people continue to have pain for several months or years after the injury occurred. It is difficult to predict how each person with whiplash may recover.

How do I know if I have nerve damage after car accident? ›

After a car crash, you may develop noticeable symptoms of nerve damage that you should have your doctor examine immediately, including: Tingling sensation in your extremities. Limbs falling asleep when compressed. Abnormal sensitivity and pain.

How do you know you have nerve damage? ›

The signs of nerve damage
  1. Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
  2. Feeling like you're wearing a tight glove or sock.
  3. Muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs.
  4. Regularly dropping objects that you're holding.
  5. Sharp pains in your hands, arms, legs, or feet.
  6. A buzzing sensation that feels like a mild electrical shock.

Is nerve damage from a car accident permanent? ›

Because of this, damage to the nerves can change a persons life forever, and some injuries can be debilitating and permanent. If a victim has sustained damage to their nerves, they will likely feel pain at the site the damage has occurred, although referral pain can be sensed in other places.

How long do ribs hurt after car accident? ›

Typically, it will take four to six weeks before your ribs will heal properly. Your doctor will likely tell you to ice the painful area, take over-the-counter pain medication if necessary, and get plenty of rest in the meantime.

How do I know if my whiplash is serious? ›

You should see a doctor after an auto crash or other injury event, or if you have the following symptoms:
  1. pain or stiffness in the neck that goes away and then comes back.
  2. severe neck pain.
  3. pain, numbness, or tingling in your shoulders, arms, or legs.
  4. any issues with your bladder or bowels.

What does severe whiplash feel like? ›

Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms of whiplash. You may experience a constant, aching pain, and pain that worsens when you move your head side-to-side or up and down. Pain and stiffness may be accompanied by tense, knotted muscles, muscle spasms, and limited range of motion for moving your neck.

Why is my whiplash getting worse? ›

When that initial injury occurs, there are physical changes to the cervical spine and cervicocranial junction (where the base of the skull meets the neck). If those changes are not corrected through proper pain management treatment, the discomfort will persist and can recur or get worse over time.


1. Whiplash Injuries Causes & Symptoms - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim
(nabil ebraheim)
2. Delayed Pain - What You Should Know After a Car Accident
(NUVO Health/Anniston Chiropractic)
3. What you need to know about delayed pain after a car accident
(Dr. Mike Mills)
4. Best Exercises to Treat Neck Pain From a Car Accident | Portland Car Accident Chiropractor
(Solving Pain With Strength)
5. Neck Pain? Back Pain? Car Accident? Headaches? Watch this.
6. Are You Experiencing Leg Pain After a Car Accident?
(The Clark Law Office)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Chrissy Homenick

Last Updated: 19/09/2023

Views: 5807

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Chrissy Homenick

Birthday: 2001-10-22

Address: 611 Kuhn Oval, Feltonbury, NY 02783-3818

Phone: +96619177651654

Job: Mining Representative

Hobby: amateur radio, Sculling, Knife making, Gardening, Watching movies, Gunsmithing, Video gaming

Introduction: My name is Chrissy Homenick, I am a tender, funny, determined, tender, glorious, fancy, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.