When you’re in an auto accident, you may not realize you’re hurt at the time the accident occurs. By the next day, though, you may be screaming in pain. This scenario is more common than you probably think, especially when it comes to soft tissue injuries like whiplash.
At Coastal Pain Medicine, our medical director, Patrick Brennan, DO, specializes in personal injury cases, such as when you’re hurt in a car accident. If you experience a delayed onset of pain, schedule an evaluation with the doctor ASAP. The sooner you get treatment, the more completely you’ll heal.
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden and violent backward-and-forward jerking motion of the head. In adults, it most commonly occurs due to a car accident and produces a collection of symptoms that originate in the spine and the soft tissues and nerves that surround it.
When your head snaps back and forth in a whiplash injury, your cervical (neck) structures extend and flex, creating severe shearing forces that may damage the spinal joints and intervertebral discs.
It may also overstretch the muscles and ligaments of your neck and upper back, changing your spine’s normal curve. Your neck is vulnerable to this type of injury because it’s able to move in many directions.
And as structures move out of place, extruding disc material or misaligned vertebrae can compress and injure spinal nerve roots, causing pain that moves along the nerve’s path.
Symptoms may appear immediately, or they can show up days or even weeks after the injury occurs. One reason for the delay is that it takes time for the body to divert blood, fluid, and nutrients to the site of the injury, as well as to register that swelling has occurred.
A second reason for delayed pain, whether from whiplash or even a broken bone, comes from your body’s response to trauma.
When subjected to trauma, your body’s systems spring into action to assess the damage and prepare you to either run away or stay and defend yourself from further danger. A flood of the hormone adrenaline coursing through your veins causes this fight-or-flight mode.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, ramps up your blood pressure, sends blood to your muscles, dilates your pupils, and elevates your blood sugar to make your body ready for whatever comes next.
When the trauma subsides, your adrenaline levels normalize, but the effects linger for a while. So, after an auto accident, you may do a quick mental body scan and determine that you’re not hurt. But the anesthetizing properties of adrenaline may be masking your pain and tricking you into a false sense of well-being.
Once the effects of the adrenaline wear off, the pain surfaces. It can take a few hours or a few days, but eventually you realize that all is not OK. When the pain hits, make an appointment to see Dr. Brennan ASAP.
Some classic symptoms of whiplash include:
In addition, researchers have identified late whiplash syndrome, a collection of symptoms that arise more than six months after sustaining a whiplash injury. But the mechanism of presentation isn’t clearly understood.
If you were in an auto accident, chances are lawyers are going to get involved, and there’ll be some sort of claims process. But the last thing you need while you’re healing is lawyers and paperwork.
At Coastal Pain Medicine, we take care of the paperwork for you and work closely with the lawyers. We guarantee you an initial appointment within three days of your call, and we turn around the doctor’s notes to the attorneys within 24 hours. All you need to do is relax and get better.
Are you experiencing delayed pain after an auto accident? Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Brennan ASAP. You may be hurt worse than you think. Call our Pompano Beach, Florida, office at 954-833-8552, or contact us online today.