It’s natural to overlook your own injuries in the shock that follows a car accident. Between assessing the damage, talking to the police, and swapping insurance information, you’re rightfully disoriented and distracted.
A few days later, though, the immediate stress has died down and your body’s inflammatory processes have picked up. You might wake up in pain or discomfort, or with a feeling that something’s just not right. Injuries of all kinds, including very serious injuries, can begin to develop symptoms in the days following a car accident.
Watch out for these 18 post car accident symptoms. They could mean your injuries are more serious than you thought.
1. Neck and Back Pain
The violent force in a car crash can cause your head to rapidly swing forward and back. When this movement strains the muscles and ligaments in your neck, the injury is known as whiplash.
Whiplash injuries can stick around for a long time and cause chronic pain. You should seek medical treatment right away if you think you might have whiplash.
Even if you didn’t hit your head, you might find that you’ve developed a headache after a car accident. If it feels like your headache originates at the base of your skull, it could be due to whiplash.
Whiplash is debilitating in itself, but your headache could also be a sign of something even more serious. A persistent headache after a car crash could signify a concussion or traumatic brain injury.
3. Shoulder Pain
Does your shoulder hurt after an auto accident? Shoulder injuries are relatively common in car crashes. You may have suffered a rotator cuff tear, bursitis, or even a bone fracture.
Shoulder injuries can cause you to develop a condition known as frozen shoulder, where you lose the ability to move your shoulder joint. You might need extensive physical therapy to treat a frozen shoulder.
4. Knee Pain
If your bent knees or shinbones hit the dashboard in your car accident, you may have injured your posterior cruciate ligament, or PCL. Also known as “dashboard knee,” a PCL tear can cause pain and instability and sideline you for several months.
After an accident, you may develop stiffness, especially in your neck, shoulders, and low back. This could be due to whiplash, a soft tissue injury, or even a spinal injury.
6. Mood Changes
Your friends and family may notice that you’ve developed mood swings or a change in your personality after an accident. You may feel guilty, angry, or a mix of both. Your mood changes might stem from the psychological trauma of the accident, or they could be a symptom of a concussion or TBI.
7. Emotional Distress
Even a small car accident can have a big impact on your emotions. Nearly 10% of car crash victims develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which include feeling anxious, on edge, or watchful when reminded about the accident or when driving. You might even avoid car travel entirely.
Emotional distress is a natural response to the trauma of a car accident, but it can also have a negative impact on your quality of life. If your PTSD symptoms are persistent, you may need medical treatment.
8. Changes in Appetite
Emotional distress might cause you to lose your appetite or indulge in binge eating. A change in appetite might seem minor, but it can quickly impact your psychological and physical health.
9. Abnormal Sleep Patterns and Fatigue
It’s very common to find your sleep patterns are disturbed following a car accident. You might suffer from insomnia or have nightmares. Or you might have a hard time staying awake throughout the day.
Sleep changes can be a symptom of psychological trauma, or they can be a sign of something more serious, such as a traumatic brain injury. Either way, you should see your doctor if your sleep has changed after an accident.
10. Tingling and Numbness
If you are experiencing a tingling sensation or numbness in any part of your body after a car crash, it might be a sign of a serious injury. Tingling and numbness are common symptoms of nerve damage, which can have long-term effects on your quality of life.
Seat belts keep you from being ejected from the car, but they can also injure your torso. If you have bruising in the shape of your seatbelt, you are at greater risk of abdominal or spinal injury and should get checked out by your doctor, even if you don’t feel hurt. Pregnant women and children are particularly at risk.
12. Abdominal Pain
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, you may have a seatbelt bruise. If your stomach is swollen, you should seek medical attention. The swelling may be a sign of internal bleeding or damage to your internal organs.
13. Dizziness or Vertigo
You should never ignore dizziness or vertigo after a car accident. They could be a sign that you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or concussion.
If you are feeling nauseated after a car accident, it could be for a number of reasons. The pressure of the seat belt on the abdomen causes some people to feel nauseated. Anxiety and vertigo can both induce nausea. Most seriously, nausea and vomiting are often the first symptom of a head, neck, or brain injury.
15. Vision Changes
Vision changes, such as blurred vision, double vision, or light sensitivity, can signify a traumatic brain injury or damage to the eye itself. In severe cases, a blow to the head can cause retinal detachment or damage to the optic nerve, both of which can lead to permanent blindness.
16. Hearing Changes
Hearing changes after a car accident can range from a mild ringing in the ears to complete deafness. Any hearing loss you experience after the accident could be due to the loud noise of the airbag exploding or head trauma.
17. Memory Loss
Traumatic brain injuries often cause amnesia, or memory loss. You might have a hard time remembering things that happened after the accident, before the accident, or both. You might feel confused, like your thoughts and memories are muddled. If you are experiencing memory loss, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
18. Difficulty Concentrating
You might also find that you are having trouble concentrating, or that your head feels clouded or foggy. Issues with concentration can also signify a traumatic brain injury, so you shouldn’t ignore them or assume they will go away on their own.
Don’t Ignore These Symptoms
After an accident, you might not think your injuries are that serious. However, you might begin to notice symptoms in the days or weeks that follow—symptoms that could indicate a serious injury. If you feel any of these symptoms, it’s best to seek medical treatment right away.