Pain After a Vehicle Accident Can be Caused by Emotional Symptoms

Everyone involved in a vehicle accident can react differently. No matter how minor the accident might seem, it’s common to have difficulty thinking or focusing. That’s normal following an accident because you’re thinking about possibly being late to an important appointment or how you will explain what happened to the police.

Emotional Symptoms Can Lead to Physical Pain

One form of trauma is the emotional response to a terrible event. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of mental health disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event like a vehicle accident. Experts recognize that PTSD can develop in anyone who has experienced a car accident injury. According to the American Psychological Association, car accidents are the most common cause of PTSD in the general population.

Immediately after the event, shock, and denial are typical. While these feelings are normal, some victims have difficulty moving on with their lives after the accident. Long-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, and strained relationships. PTSD differs from the typical difficulties one might experience after an upsetting event.

While many people who experience a car accident experience temporary challenges but get better with good self-care, post-traumatic stress disorder can last for years and interfere with routine life activities.

Symptoms of Emotional Stress

The emotional stress from a vehicle accident can lead to actual physical symptoms. The American Psychological Association reports that emotional stress can cause physical pain, such as headaches and nausea. Other physical symptoms that result from emotional stress include:

  • Heaviness in the chest.
  • Increased heart rate or chest pain.
  • Shoulder, neck, or back pain.
  • General body aches and pains.
  • Headaches.
  • Teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
  • Losing or gaining weight.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Sleeping more or less than usual.

It is essential to seek medical advice if you develop any of these symptoms in the days following a vehicle accident.

Common Late-Appearing Injuries Following a Vehicle Accident

In the shock and confusion following a vehicle accident, it is often difficult to appreciate the seriousness of your injuries. The release of adrenaline that causes a rapid heartbeat and increased perspiration can also decrease the sensation of pain. You may be hurt more than you realize.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms from injuries such as a concussion are not always immediately apparent. Attorneys advise that these “late-appearing” accident injuries may not manifest until days or weeks after the accident.

An example of a late-appearing injury might be neck pain that returns after being treated successfully with over-the-counter medication following an accident. Some of the more common injuries that can appear several days after a vehicle accident include tension headaches, whiplash, as well as neck and back pain.

  • Headaches. Days after a vehicle accident, you may wake up with an unexplained headache. It could be a simple tension headache or a potentially serious problem. It could be a sign of a blood clot on the brain, injury to the neck or head, or even a concussion.
  • Concussion. A concussion can be very serious and is usually accompanied with other symptoms, such as:
    • Blurred or double vision.
    • Nausea.
    • Sensitivity to light or noise.
    • Mood, sleep, and appetite changes.
  • Whiplash. The sudden jarring force of a car crash can stretch and injure the muscles and tendons in and around the neck. Whiplash can exhibit many of the same symptoms as a concussion. A whiplash injury can occur in rear-end collisions at speeds of less than 14 miles per hour.
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain. Often, the result of tension and stress, neck and shoulder pain can result from nerve or tissue damage.
  • Back Pain. A car accident can cause injury to the muscles, ligaments, nerves in the back, or damage to the vertebrae. A pain in the back can be due to muscle tightness or bruising. If the pain travels down the spine or extremities, it can be from damaged or pinched nerves. Low back pain occurs in more than half of rear-impact collisions.
  • Abdominal Pain or Swelling. Seatbelts pulling tight across the abdomen in an accident can cause pain that may not be fully realized until days later. The belts can cause internal injury, bruising, or more serious internal bleeding. Discovery of internal bleeding can take hours or even days.
  • Swelling or Stiffness. Swelling can add to stiffness and reduce the range of motion in the affected area.
  • Tingling or Numbness. Experiencing tingling, numbness, or a loss of feeling in the neck, shoulder, arms, hands, or back can be a symptom of nerve or tissue damage. Loss of sensation can result from neck or spinal column damage.

See Your Doctor

After any vehicle accident, seeking medical attention is a good idea. In the days following any vehicle accident, pay close attention to any symptoms you experience. Do not discount symptoms that appear days or weeks after the accident. Visit a doctor experienced in post-vehicle accident symptoms to diagnose and treat any potential lingering problems.

Emotional Symptoms Can Lead to Physical Pain After a Vehicle Accident Resources

7 delayed injury symptoms after a car crash (KTAR)
Concussion (Mayo Clinic)
Types of Late Appearing Car Accident Injuries (HG Legal Resources)
Trauma (American Psychological Association)
PTSD From a Car Accident: Everything You Need To Know (Forbes)
Emotional Stress: Warning Signs, Management, When to Get Help (Cleveland Clinic)
10 Strange Things Stress Can Do to Your Body (Cleveland Clinic)