The frantic squeaking of your brakes, the crunch of metal on metal, and the shattering of glass—at the moment of a collision, you’ll feel several elements come blaring into focus. Something that might not set in right away? Delayed back pain after a car accident.

Pain after car accidents is incredibly common, from headaches and shoulder aches to lower back pain and groin injuries. However, delayed back pain after a car accident might come as a surprise once the adrenaline from the incident wears off. In this post, we’re breaking down the most common delayed pains after a car accident, and what they mean for your personal injury case.

Why Are Common Car Accident Injuries Delayed?

You might be wondering why pain after an accident can be delayed. The short answer is adrenaline. Adrenaline, or your “fight or flight” hormone, is one of your body’s most significant defense mechanisms. It’s typically released in moments of extreme stress, creating an “adrenaline rush.” During an adrenaline rush, your heart beats faster, pumping more blood to your brain and muscles. This helps your body react quickly to the situation.

In the midst of a wreck, excess adrenaline can make you feel temporarily numb to the numerous effects of a car accident. While some people may feel immediate pain, it’s likely others may not experience symptoms for hours, days, or even weeks after a motor vehicle accident.

Spinal injuries, in particular, can take the longest to develop pain symptoms, especially since your spine is protected by a variety of soft tissue and bone. Aside from delayed back pain after a car accident, neck, shoulder, and head trauma are some of the second-most common delayed injuries.

1. Delayed Pain from Back Injuries

The most frequent auto accident side effect is delayed back pain from injuries. Back injuries are most commonly reported in rear-end collisions and side-impact car accidents.

In a rear-end collision, the force of impact can throw your body forward or backward, slamming you between your steering wheel or dashboard and seat. During a side-impact accident, your body absorbs most of the collision’s force due to the vehicle’s limited side-impact protection. But even though rear-end and side-impact are the most common, a back injury could occur from any type of vehicle collision.Pain in the spine, a man with backache, injury in the lower back, black and white photo with highlighted skeleton

A back injury is typically classified as cervical (in your neck), thoracic (in your middle back), or lumbar (in your lower back). Where your back pain is located helps diagnose the type of injury, as well as how to best treat it.

Common Back Injuries from a Car Crash

Your spine is composed of dozens of small bones, called vertebrae, as well as vertebral discs that cushion each bone. An auto accident can injure your vertebrae and spinal discs, as well as your soft, tissue-like ligaments, muscles, and nerve endings.

The most common back injuries from a car crash include:

  • Sprain — A common injury to a ligament (the tissue that connects bones to other bones)
  • Strain — A common injury to a muscle or a tendon (the tissue that connects muscle to bone)
  • Herniated Disc — Damage to a spinal disc that causes the soft, gel-like center of the disc to protrude into your spinal canal
  • Pinched Nerve — Damage to a nerve ending caused by pressure from surrounding spinal discs or tissues
  • Sciatica — Nerve pain that radiates from your lower back down your legs, creating tingling or numbness
  • Spinal Cord Damage — A serious injury to your spinal cord, the nerve tissue that runs from your brain down through your back

Delayed Injury Symptoms to Watch For

After a car accident, the symptoms of a delayed back injury vary depending on the injury type and location. For instance, lower back pain can be indicative of a herniated disc or pinched nerve, where middle back pain can indicate a strain.

Delayed back injury symptoms to watch for after an accident include:

  • Numbness
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Burning or tingling
  • Tenderness (sore to the touch)
  • Stiffness or difficulty moving
  • Difficulty standing straight
  • Trouble bending or lifting
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Pain that radiates down one or both legs

You must have undiagnosed back pain assessed by a medical professional. Image testing, such as an MRI, is the only way to reveal any nerve or soft tissue damage.

Man has got problems with his spine. He put his hand on his backbone with red light which imitation of pain. Dark background.

2. Delayed Neck Pain

Delayed neck pain is incredibly common following a car wreck. In addition to the vertebrae that make up your neck, you also have strong muscles and ligaments that support your head and keep your posture upright. The force of impact during an accident can cause your head to rapidly move from side to side or backward and forwards, damaging your muscles and ligaments.

The most frequent neck injury after a car accident is whiplash. Whiplash is a type of sprain caused by the tearing of neck ligaments. Whiplash requires an x-ray, MRI scan, or CT scan to properly diagnose.

Common Whiplash Injury Symptoms to Monitor

There are several delayed symptoms of whiplash you should monitor after an accident, including:

  • Localized neck and shoulder pain
  • Tenderness in the upper back or arms
  • Neck and shoulder stiffness
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Limited range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, especially at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness or vertigo

Whiplash is not life-threatening, but it should be treated to ensure you aren’t left with recurring pain symptoms.

3. Delayed Shoulder Pain

While you can’t prevent a car accident by wearing a seat belt, a seat belt can save your life in the event your vehicle crashes. Your seat belt restricts your motion during impact and prevents you from being ejected from the vehicle. However, because a seat belt constricts you to your seat, it may worsen the ricochet effect felt during whiplash.

In addition to damaging your neck, whiplash can also injure the soft tissue in your shoulders and upper back. If you’ve experienced whiplash during an accident, you may feel shoulder pain days or weeks after the crash.

Female Motorist With Whiplash Injury In Car Crash Getting Out Of Vehicle

Common Shoulder Injury Symptoms to Watch For

Delayed soft tissue injuries, like sprains and strains of the shoulder following whiplash, are common after a crash. Shoulder injury symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Neck and shoulder soreness
  • Tenderness in the upper back or arms
  • Neck and shoulder stiffness
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder

Soft tissue injuries will not show on a common x-ray, so be sure to receive additional medical treatment, like an MRI or CT scan.

4. Delayed Abdominal Injuries

The restriction of a seat belt can also cause delayed abdominal injuries. Damage to your abdomen is a serious injury. Your abdomen shields many major organs, including your liver, stomach, kidneys, pancreas, small and large intestine, reproductive organs, and numerous blood vessels. If you’re experiencing abdominal pain after a wreck, it could be a sign of internal bleeding or blood clots.

An experienced medical professional must diagnose and treat abdominal injuries. When left untreated, abdominal injuries can be life-threatening, so immediate medical attention is crucial.

Symptoms of Abdominal Injuries You Must Monitor

If you suspect you’ve sustained abdominal injuries during an accident, you must monitor symptoms of:

  • Fainting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Deep bruising and purplish skin
  • If one or more abdominal injury symptoms are present, especially deep bruising, visit a doctor right away.

5. Delayed Head Injuries or Concussions

When your head slams forward during a collision, your brain also moves forward inside of your skull. Though you may not feel it at the moment, the force of impact causes your brain’s soft tissue to slam into the hard bone of your skull. This damage is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

There are two types of traumatic brain injuries: an open TBI and a closed TBI. An open TBI is when the skull is broken, fractured, or penetrated during impact. A closed TBI is when an outside force impacts the skull, but the bone does not break. A concussion is the most common TBI sustained during an accident. Concussions are closed TBIs and are typically not life-threatening. Open TBIs, on the other hand, are serious injuries that require immediate medical attention.

Surgeon showing xray film to senior patient looking at brain injuries with nurse standing beside the surgeon at the hospital room. Medical healthcare and surgical doctor service concept.

Common Concussion Symptoms to Be Wary of

While a concussion is not necessarily life-threatening, it can cause serious symptoms that interrupt your daily life. Symptoms of a concussion do not always appear on impact and can take days, weeks, and even months to fully register.

The most common concussion symptoms to be wary of include:

  • HeadacheConfusion
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sleepiness or excessive fatigue

All car accident victims, especially those involved in rear-end or roll-over collisions, should confirm they have not received a concussion after a wreck.

6. Unseen Car Accident Injuries

Aside from physical injuries that show their marks on your skin, a car accident can cause damage that chiropractic care or physical therapy can’t fix. Heightened anxiety or depression is incredibly common following an auto accident, especially when mechanic fees and medical bills pile up and thoughts of the accident are hard to shake. Post-traumatic stress disorder, including symptoms of flashbacks and recurring nightmares, also frequently impacts victims involved in severe crashes.

Symptoms of Psychological Trauma After an Accident

Psychological or emotional trauma can take many forms after a car accident. Symptoms to watch out for following a traumatic car accident include:

  • Shock, denial, disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others

If you believe you’re experiencing psychological trauma after an accident, we urge you to connect with a counselor, therapist, or trusted friend. It’s imperative to find the support you need during this difficult time.

Speak with an Auto Accident Law Firm Today

If you’ve been involved in a car crash, you must receive medical attention right away. Even when pain after a car accident is delayed, the resulting injuries can significantly impact your lifestyle, happiness, and overall accident settlement. Waiting to see a doctor—or never visiting a medical professional at all—can worsen your symptoms and weaken your case.

Instead, trust your gut, and be sure to have every ache and pain assessed by a medical professional. If you’re unsure where to start, speak with a seasoned car accident injury lawyer for a free consultation today.