Why Pain Sustained After an Auto Accident Is Often Delayed

If you’re like most people after an auto accident — after the squealing, crunching, and stopping — the first thing you do is mentally evaluate your physical condition. Where does it hurt? Am I bleeding? Am I alive? As the initial shock begins to wear off, you check on others. Is everyone else okay? While this checklist is normal and valuable, it shouldn’t stop there.

Dr. Michael Varnay and Dr. Carol Carmien at V Chiropractic and Rehabilitation in Littleton, Colorado, urge you to seek immediate medical attention after an auto accident to address any acute injuries. But they also understand the nature of delayed symptoms of less-obvious injuries that may require specialized care in the days or weeks after your accident. Here’s some helpful information to know if you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash.

Why are some symptoms delayed?

A cut bleeds, and a broken bone shows up on an X-ray, but some internal injuries are subtle and don’t have any visible symptoms.

Also, some people describe their pain as general achiness, which seems logical and normal after an accident. That pain typically lessens and fully subsides. But an unseen injury will do the opposite — it starts out mild and progresses to something more severe. Here are some classic car crash injuries and their delayed symptoms.


When your car is moving, even at a low speed, the obstacle that stops your car when it crashes does not stop your body. That’s why you wear a seat belt, to stop your body and keep it in the car. And the seat belt works great — for your torso. 

But your head has nothing holding it in place, so when everything else stops, your head keeps moving, snapping forward and then back like a whip. Thus the name whiplash.

Because you have adrenaline spiking in your system, you may not notice the damage right away, but when you wake up the next day, you may feel intense stiffness and pain from the damaged soft tissues in your neck. 


Because your head is free to move even after your car stops, you may hit it on the steering wheel, the window, or any other nearby object. If this results in an obvious cut, bump, or bruise, treating it is simple. 

But if your brain has been jostled within your skull, it may have sustained some damage that won’t show up right away. Headaches are a symptom of some serious post-accident conditions such as brain bleeds and traumatic brain injuries, including a concussion.

You or others may also notice differences in your behavior in the weeks or months following your accident. If you’re unusually irritable, depressed, or unable to concentrate, these can be signs of brain injuries and warrant immediate medical attention.

Abdominal pain

Pain in your stomach area is another symptom that may be delayed. Internal injuries can take different forms, including a ruptured spleen or other injured organ or internal bleeding caused by damaged blood vessels. Watch for symptoms such as:

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

Back pain

It’s common to feel back pain after a car accident even if nothing is seriously wrong. The violent jerking that everyone in a crash experiences is enough to make you sore. But if the soreness progresses to pain and immobility, it may be more serious. For instance, pain in your back could indicate:

These injuries occur when your spine is bent, twisted, or torqued in a way that damages or misaligns one or more of the 33 vertebrae in your back. Not only are the bones at risk of fracturing, but the soft tissues and nerves also take the brunt of many auto accidents.

If you have back pain after your accident, we can help locate the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan uniquely designed to reposition your spine, return normal function, and relieve your pain. 

Our expert team uses proven chiropractic techniques to give you a drug-free, noninvasive option to health care. 

If you’ve been in a car accident and have some delayed pain, give us a call or book an appointment online to find out if you have any lingering injuries.

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