After a car accident, you may walk away, seemingly unscathed. Because of shock and confusion, you may be numb to any injuries you have incurred. But symptoms can appear hours, days, and even weeks after a wreck. Some of these symptoms may be the result of the emotional trauma caused by the collision and its aftermath. Or they could indicate a physical injury that needs to be addressed. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek attention from a healthcare professional.
Headaches, dizziness, vision changes
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms after a car accident. They can be caused by tension from all of the details needing to be dealt with—from insurance claims and car repairs to financial issues. Headaches, dizziness, and vision changes may also be caused by emotional trauma from the accident itself. But they could be signs of a physical injury, like whiplash, that needs to be treated. Other causes could be life-threatening, including a blood clot, internal injuries, or a traumatic brain injury.
Neck and shoulder pain
Neck and shoulder pain may be a symptom of tension and stress, but they may also be the result of muscle, tendon, nerve, and/or joint injuries that need treatment. Spinal injuries like a herniated disc—which occurs when the vertebra of the spine balloon out or rupture—or whiplash can cause shoulder and neck pain.
Tingling and/or numbness
Tingling and numbness in the neck, shoulders, back, or extremities may be caused by a herniated disc, nerve, or tissue damage. Pinched nerves are not uncommon and can be quite painful requiring intervention by a trained healthcare professional.
Abdominal pain and nausea
Abdominal pain is common after an accident because seatbelts across the belly pull tight in a crash. This can lead to tenderness that may not be felt until days later. But abdominal pain can also be a sign of internal injuries or bleeding. Nausea can be a result of stress and trauma from the accident, but it could also be a sign of an injury.
Bruising and discoloration
Bruising can look scary but is often not a cause for alarm, even if it shows up days after an accident, as it can take a few days for blood from broken vessels to seep to the skin’s surface. But bruising can be a sign of injuries to the internal organs, tissue, and bones, so if discoloration and tenderness don’t improve, it’s important to seek medical attention.
Swelling or stiffness
Sprains, strains, pulled muscles, and damaged tissue swell when they’re healing. The swelling can make the area stiff and limit range of motion. Ice, immobilization, rest, and elevation of the injury should help, but if there is little to no improvement over time, additional attention from a medical professional or physical therapist may be needed.
Back pain can come out of nowhere after an accident. For aching and generalized discomfort, the culprit could be muscle tightness or bruising, but a more serious injury like a herniated disc can cause pain and numbness in the buttocks and extremities as well as the area of injury. Shooting pain or a constant ache that travels from the spine to the extremities could be damaged or pinched nerves.
Common symptoms of the emotional trauma and stress after an accident include mood and behavior changes, eating and sleeping changes, fatigue, concentration problems, and memory loss. But these symptoms could also be a sign of a concussion, so don’t hesitate to get checked out. In addition, you may need help from a counselor to work through the experience and the impact of the stress and sometimes life-altering changes after an accident.
At Accident & Injury Chiropractic, all we do is treat car accident victims, so we understand all you may be going through. One of the first things our doctors of chiropractic do when they join our team is to get specialized training in the area of whiplash and traumatic brain injuries. We treat a wide range of accident injuries, and we do so with the caring and compassion needed as you walk through your recovery.