Whether it’s a serious collision or a minor fender-bender, any car accident can be a traumatic event, even if you walk away with no injuries. What you might not know is that some of the most common car accident injuries can be present for days before you notice any symptoms of the injury. Because of this, it is important to seek care and understand what to watch for in the aftermath of your accident in case you have hidden injuries. Read on to understand why you may need medical care even if you do not notice any injuries immediately.
Why Symptoms May Be Delayed
From a physiological perspective, car accidents can be “exciting” in a way. As a reaction to trauma, the body often begins producing endorphins and adrenaline which serve to energize the body and can even block pain. This is similar to when you see an athlete continue playing after a sports injury because their body has hidden the pain from them.
This same process can happen when you have been in a car accident. You may feel no pain and even feel particularly energetic, giving you the stamina to deal with police, mechanics, insurance companies, and all the other necessary parties. This can last for a long time after your accident, creating the illusion that you have suffered no injuries. Instead, these chemicals can begin to subside over time and pain may begin to appear.
Soft Tissue Injuries
A soft tissue injury encompasses damage done to any part of the body that is not a bone, such as muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Even at a low speed, the force of a car accident can cause passengers to be thrown violently and move in unnatural ways. This movement places stress on joints and tissues.
One of the most common car accident injuries is also one very likely to have delayed symptoms- whiplash, a soft tissue injury in the neck muscles. This occurs when the head is forcefully thrown forward and backward during the impact of an accident.
In addition to being very common, soft tissue injuries like whiplash can result in a number of symptoms, including pain, swelling, and reduced mobility. These symptoms can take as long as weeks to begin manifesting. Part of what makes this difficult is that they are not always visible on an x-ray, the test most likely to be performed in an emergency care setting. An expert car accident doctor will be able to identify signs of these injuries before they start causing discomfort.
Another part of the body that is left vulnerable during a car accident is the brain. While the skull typically protects the brain, along with the fluid inside of it, a forceful jolt can cause your brain to strike the skull with force. During a car accident, this commonly occurs and leads to a concussion.
While concussions are considered a mild traumatic brain injury, they can still be very serious when left untreated. Like other injuries, symptoms of a concussion may not be immediately apparent. Loss of consciousness or headaches after an accident could mean that you have a concussion. Other symptoms are more noticeable over time. Concussions can lead to trouble concentrating and focusing, blurry vision, and abnormal sleep patterns that may become clearer over time. Even after days or weeks, a concussion should be evaluated by a doctor to ensure no other damage occurred.
Seeing a Doctor After a Car Accident
If you have recently been in a car accident, even if you feel no symptoms, you should seek medical attention promptly. Any injuries that can be identified quickly can also be treated quickly, giving you a better chance of a full and speedy recovery. A doctor specifically trained in working with car accident victims will be able to look for subtle signs of these injuries, as well as give you tips on what to monitor and what red flags should make you concerned.
It is also crucial to any claims you make after your accident to have thorough medical records that can be tied back to your accident, so immediate visits allow you to track the effects closely. Being able to show that you sought medical treatment in a reasonable time period, even if nothing is found, can aid your claims.
At AICA Orthopedics, our team of specialists works with car accident victims daily. When you come in, we can easily scan for the most common car accident injuries and develop treatment plans customized to each client. If you have recently been in a car accident, visit AICA Orthopedics even if you do not notice any injuries.