Can injuries show up a while after an accident?

It might be a short delay before you feel pain, like when you fall to the ground playing an outdoor sport. At first, you don’t feel more than bruised—but later, pain sets in. Perhaps even after a week or two, you might start to experience pain in your joints, knees, back or hips. You might experience headaches and the other symptoms that come with them. But with none of these symptoms present right after the fall, perhaps it doesn’t occur to you that they could be related to it.

Delayed injury can be distressing resulting from major events like car accidents. The accident itself is traumatic enough, and sometimes you are just thankful that you aren’t hurt—or aren’t hurt more severely and the only outcome you focus on at the time of the accident. However, there are some injuries that show up over time.

What is delayed injury and why is it delayed?

Most delayed injuries occur in the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments). It’s rare that you experience postponed pain when a bone is broken—these injuries are usually detected right away. Pain from delayed injuries is sometimes masked temporarily by adrenaline, especially in traumatic accidents. In these cases, pain often sets in once the adrenaline and endorphins have receded to their normal levels. Injuries that take days or more to appear are considered delayed.

Health problem at office work


Outside of this chemical context, pain from injuries can be delayed because of the very physiology behind them. Muscles swell when blood pools to deliver the nutrients necessary to heal. The cause of pain in many cases is the swelling itself.

Physical and emotional pain can be delayed after an accident, particularly a minor one. Some of these injuries can be slight, but ultimately affect motor function or posture and cause indirect consequences as your body compensates for the injured muscles or nerves.

Many of these injuries can be treated before they become painful—and especially before they interrupt normal motor functions. Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) and chiropractic treatments are advantageous, because they address the source of the problem and encourage the muscle and soft-tissue health that helps you heal.


A note on whiplash

Many car accidents cause whiplash, the injury to neck muscles from the force of the accident throwing your head forward and back again. Stiffness, soreness, blurred vision, headache and dizziness are common side-effects that might not appear on the day of car accident. Sometimes, it takes up to a week for symptoms to show up.

Whiplash can also result from sports injuries and other types of trauma. Even on a roller coaster, extending your neck beyond its normal range of motion can cause damage that shows up in a delayed fashion. Maintaining your head forward-facing will keep your strongest muscles ready to control this motion.


Treatment of soft-tissue delayed injury

Soft-tissue injuries are not x-ray detectable, however your chiropractor can perform the analyses to detect injuries and recommend treatment. A.R.T. is a technique to help soft-tissue injuries heal, and promote the tissue health and mobility that helps avoid injuries in the future.

Contact your chiropractor at the first sign of pain after an accident. When untreated, even a minor pain can turn in a major discomfort. Without the presence of acute pain, a visit after an accident can help identify delayed issues—and provide you with peace of mind after an otherwise traumatic event.

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