Why Pain After an Auto Accident Is Often Delayed

You’ve probably experienced delayed pain before: You see yourself closing your finger in a door, but it takes a few seconds for it to hurt. When you’re involved in an automobile accident, the same processes can cause pain to be delayed by hours or even days. At Leading Edge Medical, we treat patients every day with this kind of delayed pain. Here’s what happens:

Pain Signals Are Delayed

When you close your finger in a door, your pain is delayed because your nervous system has to tell your brain what just happened, and then your brain tells your finger “ow!” Although that whole process happens very quickly, it can seem slow in the moment.

During an auto accident, the same processes happen, and it may take some time for your body to let your brain know what has happened. Sometimes your brain is so stressed and busy processing all of the incoming information, it takes a while for the right signals to get to the right parts of your body.

Auto Accidents Invite Endorphins

In especially stressful or painful situations, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are one of a group of chemical neurotransmitters, and they block pain receptors in your brain. Morphine and other opiates have a similar effect as endorphins.

Few situations are as stressful or lead to as much pain as an auto accident. It’s not unusual for people involved in auto accidents to experience the effects of endorphins and not feel the full impact of their injuries for hours or even days following the accident.

Whiplash, Back Pain, and Other Delayed Pain

One of the most common types of auto accident injuries that you don’t feel until later are neck injuries. Injuries to the soft tissue of your neck are collectively called whiplash.

Whiplash occurs when your head is whipped forward and backward quickly, extending the muscles and tendons beyond their normal range of motion. Whiplash can have a long-lasting negative effect on your health. Pain, headaches, limited range of motion, and even dizziness are all symptoms of whiplash — but you may not feel any of those symptoms for several days following your accident.

Back pain, like whiplash, is a common injury sustained in auto accidents. Whether your back pain is caused by injury to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in your back or due to damage to your spine, the pain may well be delayed.

Your seat belt holds your body in place during a car accident, but all too often, your head is susceptible to injury. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, that occurs when your brain bangs into your skull. The symptoms may include:

You can have a concussion even if you don’t lose consciousness, and your symptoms may not appear for hours or even several days following the accident. You may look and even feel fine in the immediate aftermath of the accident, yet begin to show symptoms later.

If you’ve been in an automobile accident and you’re feeling delayed pain, the two could be connected. Book an appointment at Leading Edge Medical for a consultation at our Gilbert, Arizona, office and to find out what your treatment options are.

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