Why the Pain of Injuries Sustained in Auto Accidents is Often Delayed

Car accidents can transfer huge amounts of mechanical force into your body, even if it’s only a minor fender bender. Yet, paradoxically, you may feel energized and hyper-aware in the moments following a collision.

What you’re experiencing is your body’s way of dealing with a crisis that instinctively it interprets as life-threatening. It’s the adrenaline rush of the fight-or-flight response.

Fortunately, we don’t live in a day and age when daily life means hunting wild animals to assure we eat. However, to evolve from hunter-gathers, our ancestors developed autonomic responses to danger that helped assure their survival when faced with a dangerous situation.

Flash forward to the modern era and these responses are confined to activities like extreme roller coasters – and car accidents.

How your body responds to an auto collision
The severity of the accident contributes, of course, to the severity of your injuries. The sudden, surprised biological impact of the collision helps you cope with the damage your body absorbs, as well as providing temporary tools to help you get yourself out of immediate danger.

Adrenaline is the big kicker, the hormone that gives you a burst of energy. Your air passages expand to capture more oxygen while blood vessels contract to direct blood to essential muscle groups including your heart and lungs.

Adrenaline also changes the way your body perceives pain, so you respond through the injury for self-preservation, delaying the effects of damage caused at the time of the accident.

Endorphins are also part of the hormone response, creating the sense of well-being and even pleasure you feel in moments of crisis, counteracting the negative effects of the risks you’re currently processing.

That’s why people enjoy roller coasters and extreme sports. These controlled conditions produce the same hormone responses, and adrenaline junkies are tuned to experience the positive effects.

Delayed pain after collisions
Your hormone response is a big contributor to delayed pain since the effects can last for hours, but it’s not the only reason you’re not immediately incapacitated at the accident scene. Some common soft tissue injuries take time to develop symptoms.

It’s like the delay you feel between uncommon exertion and muscle aches the next day. However, because of the inertial forces involved with a typical car accident, your body faces strain well beyond overdoing it on the ball diamond.

Whiplash describes a combination of injuries in the head, neck, back, and shoulder area resulting from the sudden movement, the “whipping,” of your head in a collision. Headache, concussion, muscle and joint pain, and limited range of motion are common symptoms.

Each patient may experience a different combination of effects. The damage from whiplash injuries involves muscles, tendons, and nerves, and some physical effects may take days or even weeks to fully develop.

A visit to Roxbury Spine and Wellness after an accident – even when you feel fine – is one of the best preventive precautions you can take. When your musculoskeletal system is out of balance, your body can’t repair the injuries caused by your accident efficiently, and these may add up to bigger complications, such as sleep disorders, blurry vision, and memory or mood disorders.

Call or click to make an appointment to see Dr. Clayman today.

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