Why Whiplash Symptoms and Other Auto Accident Injuries are Often Delayed

Every year, approximately 2.6 million Americans sustain injuries in car accidents. And, while a collision can take a matter of seconds, it can take a long-term toll on your body, even if there are no immediate signs of trauma.

Dr. Chad Mathey and his experienced team at Crown Medical Center understand the effects car crashes can have on your soft tissue, spine, bones, and brain. And, because your body has safeguards in place to protect you, you may not even realize you have sustained an injury until significant time has passed since your accident.

Common car accident injuries with delayed symptoms include:

  • Neck injuries or whiplash
  • Soft tissue injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Injuries to internal organs
  • Internal bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Spinal injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Psychological injuries or posttraumatic stress disorder

With two convenient locations in Huntsville, we can help evaluate your body after you have an accident, even if no symptoms have appeared yet.

Car accidents involve more than your body

When you’re in a car accident, you might focus on the physical trauma associated with the collision. But your system has specific mechanisms in place to protect you in times of stress and danger. First, your body releases a sudden burst of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a unique hormone that helps protect you from danger by triggering your “fight or flight” response.

During a car accident, your adrenaline works to protect you by:

  • Increasing blood flow to your muscles
  • Increasing the flow of oxygen by dilating your airways and blood vessels
  • Focusing your vision and hearing on sights and sounds directly ahead of you
  • Reducing or eliminating your pain
  • Increasing your energy

In addition to adrenaline, you may also experience a surge in endorphins. Your nervous system makes these chemicals to help you deal with pain and stress, so it’s common to feel calm and in control immediately following a car accident.

Because of the increased levels of adrenaline and endorphins in your body after an auto accident, you may not have any pain after a collision, even if you have visible signs of trauma, like broken bones.

The delayed effects of a car accident

When you’re in a car, your body moves at the same speed as the vehicle. And, even though your car stops during a collision, your body continues moving at the same rate of speed until it hits a barrier of its own, like an airbag or seatbelt. This sudden impact can cause soft tissue damage, especially whiplash. These types of muscle or ligament injuries can cause swelling and inflammation, which can take time to develop.

Car accidents can also cause significant trauma to your spine and intervertebral discs. Your discs act as rubbery shock absorbers in your spine and create flexibility. If you injure one of these discs, they can bulge, tear, or herniate. As the soft center of your disc moves out of position, it can apply pressure on surrounding nerves and tissue, leading to pain and other symptoms.

Common symptoms of car accident injuries

When you’re in a collision, you can develop a wide range of symptoms depending on your injury. Some of the most commonly delayed symptoms from an auto accident include:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Back or shoulder pain
  • Swelling
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Blood in your stool or urine
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares

The sooner we can identify a car accident injury, the faster we can get your symptoms under control and prevent them from getting worse.

If you’ve been in an auto accident, call us at Crown Medical Center or schedule an appointment online. We can perform a thorough exam to diagnose any potential injuries and create a customized treatment plan to help in your recovery.

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