Your recent fender bender may have seemed to damage only your wallet for the time being, but there is still a real chance that serious bodily harm has occurred. Most small crashes cause delayed symptoms and hidden injuries. Damage to your car is the most obvious sign of damage, but damage to your body can be more difficult to detect. Adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, runs high after a traumatic event, like a car crash, and can mask the pain from injuries. After the stress hormones dissipates, indications of the injuries may become uncovered. For those that have been in a car accident, here are some of the most common delayed signs and symptoms that can appear.
1. Headaches: It is common for headaches to occur several days after an accident. Occasionally, they can foreshadow a more serious problem–a neck injury, blood clot in the brain, or a concussion (see figure). Other accompanying symptoms, such as nausea, blurred vision, or loss of balance, may also occur.
2. Whiplash: One of the most common delayed symptom of a car accident is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when a vehicle is suddenly struck from the rear, causing sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head, resulting in soft tissue damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the neck, or fracture and dislocation of vertebrae. Whiplash can also cause dizziness, muscle spasms, diminished reflexes, weakness, and numbness in the shoulders and arms from damage to the cervical spinal cord.
3. Back pain: Back pain can reveal itself from damage to the muscles, ligaments, and nerves from the compression, rotation, or translation of the vertebrae in the back. The Back & Neck Pain Center states, “Low back pain is found in more than half of rear impact-collisions in which injury was reported, and almost three-quarters of all side-impact crashes.”
4. TMJ: Temporomandibular joint disorder can result from whiplash during a car accident. TMJ usually involves clicking, popping, and pain when opening and closing the mouth. If not treated properly these problems can worsen and lead to headaches, ear pain, and lock jaw. To learn more about TMJ, read Lock Jaw.
5. Personality Changes: Traumatic brain injuries from a car crash are likely to damage the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for personality, and even have the potential to damage the center for emotions. The Center for Disease Control reports, “Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of TBI (14%). ”
6. Abdominal & Chest Pain: This could be a sign of internal bleeding or a collapsed lung. Symptoms can include chest pain, difficulty breathing, bruising, or sharp, aching abdominal pain. Internal bleeding can cause damage while remaining undetected for hours or even days. It is life threatening and should be immediately treated by a medical professional.
7. PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can occur after any major event, such as a motor vehicle accident. Individuals involved often have frightening memories and nightmares of the crisis. Sometimes during driving, victims, especially children, may have flashbacks of the event.
It is best and safest for anyone involved to seek medical attention immediately after a motor vehicle accident to catch any signs and symptoms early before they become serious.
Thank You for Your Attention.
* To learn how Physical Therapy can serve you, see GetPT1st , Greg Todd , Renewal Rehab Paul Gough Physio Rooms, Functional Patterns , Aaron LeBauer , Kelly Starrett, The Movement Fix, Anatomy Trains, The Prehab Guys, Modern Manual Therapy, Dr. Ben Fung , Andrews University Doctor of Physical Therapy
Edited: Ffrancesca Famorcan
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