How Long After a Car Accident Can Injuries Show Up, and Which Delayed Injuries Are Most Common?

It happened in a split second. 

You were rear-ended by a texting teenager, and while you think you’re fine, you’ve heard injuries from car accidents can sometimes take a while to show up. 

How long after a car accident can injuries appear, and what should you be watching out for?

We cover how long after an accident injuries can show up and why you should see a chiropractor as soon as possible.

how long after a car accident do you feel pain

Table of Contents

How Long After a Car Accident Can Injuries Appear?

Most injuries from a car accident will be felt within three to five days.

Some injuries are noticed instantly. For example, maybe as soon as you realized you were in a car accident, you also realized your neck was hurting. 

But other injuries can take a while to show up, with many people not realizing they are injured until hours, days, or even weeks after the crash. In these cases, the injury is already there. It’s just a matter of how long it takes to feel the effects.

When you are in an accident, your body experiences a surge of adrenaline and endorphins. The release of these chemicals can hide feelings of pain immediately following the accident. It isn’t until a few hours or days later, when these hormones begin to dissipate, that you may begin to feel the full effects of the injuries from your accident. 

Why You May Not Experience Pain From a Car Accident Until Days After

Some injuries will be felt right away, but depending on the circumstances, it may take longer to experience pain. 

That’s because injuries to passive structures, such as …

  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Bones
  • Joint capsules
  • Discs
  • Cartilage 
  • Fascia

… take longer to feel. Due to their weak blood supply, it can take around two to five days for pain and inflammation to peak in these areas.

If you’re wondering how long after a car accident can pain occur, it may take up to several weeks or more before you realize the extent of your injuries. 

Have you been in a car accident? How long after a car accident you feel pain can depend on the type of treatment you get immediately following your car accident. A Cascade Spine & Injury Center, we understand the intricacies of car accident injuries. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation.

workers comp chiropractor

What Are the Symptoms of Delayed Injuries After a Car Accident?

If you were involved in an auto accident, it’s important that you know the signs of delayed injuries. These signs will vary depending on the type of injury. Also, many of the symptoms of different injuries overlap, making it difficult to determine your exact injury. 

This is why it’s important to see a doctor following a car accidentregardless of whether you think you are hurt or not. 

Some of the signs of delayed injuries after a car accident include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Stiffness, particularly in your neck, shoulders, or back
  • Swelling
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms, fingers, legs, or toes 
  • New or worsening headaches
  • Back pain
  • Difficulty sitting, standing, or moving
  • Especially painful bruises
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problem
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal sleep patterns
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness 
  • Flashbacks to the accident
  • Nightmares
  • Changes in your mood or behavior (including increased irritability, aggression, or depression)

These signs and symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying issue, so it is critical you visit a doctor as soon as possible. 

how long after car accident can you feel pain

10 Delayed Injuries That Can Occur After a Car Accident

#1: Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by your head and neck being quickly whipped back and forth in an abnormal movement pattern. Besides being painful, whiplash can cause damage to the muscles, ligaments, and discs in your neck. 

The symptoms of whiplash may include:

  • Pain and stiffness in your neck
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)

If you are experiencing whiplash after a car accident, contact your doctor. 

#2: Spinal Injury

Nearly 30% of all spinal injuries are caused by car accidents. A spinal injury from a car accident can be serious and potentially life-altering. 

Trauma to your … 

  • Cervical spine (neck and upper back)
  • Thoracic spine (mid-back); or
  • Lumbar spine (lower back)

… can damage or sever your spinal cord, resulting in paralysis from the neck or waist down. 

The symptoms of a spinal injury include: 

  • Loss of motion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of sense of hot or cold
  • Loss of sense of touch
  • Tingling sensation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pinching sensations along your spine
  • Painful stinging along your spine
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Should you experience any of these symptoms following a car accident, go immediately to the nearest emergency room.

#3: Soft Tissue Damage

Soft tissue injuries, like sprains and strains, often don’t show up until several days or weeks after a car accident. 

The symptoms of soft tissue damage may include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion

If you think you’re suffering from soft tissue damage, contact your doctor. 

#4: Slipped or Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is a type of spinal injury that occurs when one of the rubbery discs in your back bulges, tears, or pops out of place. 

The symptoms of a slipped or herniated disc may include:

  • Arm or leg pain
  • Back pain, which may be worse at night or when you stand up
  • Pain radiating down your leg
  • Weakness in your legs
  • Numbness or tingling in your legs

If you are experiencing any symptoms of a slipped or herniated disc after a car accident, seek immediate medical attention. 

#5: Concussion

A concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury caused by a sudden impact to your head. 

A concussion can result in:

  • A skull fracture
  • Bleeding inside the skull
  • Damage to your brain

 The symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a concussion, seek immediate medical attention. 

how long after a car accident can injuries show up

#6: PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that may develop after exposure to a traumatic event like a car accident. 

The symptoms of PTSD following a car accident may include:

  • Flashbacks, including reliving the accident
  • Nightmares
  • Severe emotional distress 
  • Physical reactions to something that reminds you of the accident
  • Avoiding talking about the accident
  • Avoiding places, people, or activities that remind you of the accident
  • Hopelessness
  • Negative thoughts
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important details of the accident
  • Detachment from friends and family
  • Numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Being easily frightened or startled
  • Always being on guard
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Angry outbursts or aggressive behaviors
  • Overwhelming shame or guilt
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the accident

The symptoms of PTSD can vary in intensity over time. 

If you experience disturbing thoughts and feelings for more than one month after your accident, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

#7: Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety after a car accident are common, especially after a concussion. The symptoms may include: 

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Frequent thoughts of death
  • Trouble thinking, speaking, or concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased frustration
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Crying for no apparent reason

If you find yourself experiencing the above symptoms after a car accident, visit your physician or mental health practitioner.

#8: Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury is a type of head injury that can occur when there is a violent impact to your head. Traumatic brain injury may result in damage to your brain cells and may lead to long-term difficulties.

The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

If you experience any of these symptoms following a car accident, go immediately to the nearest emergency room.

#9: Broken Bones

Broken bones may not appear for days or weeks after a car accident. Often you may experience pain in an area only to discover a broken bone. 

The symptoms of a broken bone include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity around the bone

If you experience the symptoms of a broken bone following a car accident, contact your doctor.

#10: Internal Organ Damage

Damage to your internal organs can easily occur during a car accident. This is most often caused by blunt force trauma to your chest or stomach. 

The symptoms of internal organ damage may include:

  • Pain, swelling, and bruising in the area of injury
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate

If you experience any of these symptoms following a car accident, go immediately to the nearest emergency room.

pain from car accident days after

How Long After a Car Accident Should You Seek Treatment? 

If you’re in a car accident, you should seek treatment as soon as you possibly can.

If you are experiencing acute injuries or intense pain, visit your local emergency room right away. Otherwise, call your chiropractor immediately following the accident for an evaluation with a recheck a few days later. 

Even if you feel fine after a car accident, still seek medical treatment. If everything checks out fine, monitor yourself closely in the days and weeks following the accident, and update your doctor if you begin to develop pain or symptoms of a delayed injury.

Can Injuries Worsen if You Delay Treatment?


Injuries from a car accident can become worse if you delay treatment. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster you will heal.

Were You in a Car Accident? Cascade Spine & Injury Center Can Help

If you have been in an auto accident, your recovery time can depend on the quality of medical treatment you receive immediately following your accident.

The professionals at Cascade Spine & Injury specialize in auto injuries.

With over a decade of experience working with people with auto accident injuries, our team of chiropractors is equipped with the tools and know-how it takes to get you feeling like yourself again as soon as possible.

We take the time to listen to your concerns, symptoms, and goals. We conduct a proper evaluation, so we can create a treatment plan designed specifically for you.

Contact us today to get started.

how long after a car accident can injuries show up

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

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