The shock and surprise of any car accident — even a minor fender bender — can be upsetting. While you may feel protected surrounded by the size and weight of your vehicle, the fact is that tremendous amounts of force get transferred in any collision. Often that force passes through your body, causing injuries both obvious and subtle.
Yet, typically you won’t feel pain in the moments following a collision. Your body has an instinctive response to any sudden incident that may be perceived as life-threatening. You may have heard of the fight-or-flight response; that’s what occurs when you’re involved in a car accident.
Your body’s survival functions
Although an auto accident can be over in a fraction of a second, your body prepares for a prolonged assault to ensure that you can defeat or get away from this dangerous situation. If you were immediately aware of your injuries or their severity, you might become disabled too soon to cope. Instead, your body sends two chemical responses in reaction to the collision.
The first is adrenaline, the chemical that gives you a burst of energy and awareness. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your lungs take in more air through expanded passages, blood rushes to your muscles, and your body releases more glucose into your blood, the fuel of all your cells. This creates the sometimes dream-like hyper state you may feel after a collision.
The second chemical response is through the neurotransmitters called endorphins. These block pain responses in your body. In fact, it’s the very receptors that endorphins connect with that respond to opiate substances, such as the painkiller morphine. Endorphins not only block pain; they may give you a feeling of well-being that seems incongruous in the aftermath of your car accident.
Together, adrenaline and endorphins create a chemically altered state through which you function after your collision. The masking effects of these chemicals can suppress your awareness of injury, for as much as 24 or 48 hours. However, some aches and pains don’t arise after an accident for even longer.
These injuries, including whiplash, may result from the effects of the collision on your musculoskeletal system. In effect, your body is rattled about by the forces of impact, and it may take several days for pain to emerge as your body struggles, but ultimately fails, to correct this damage.
Common delayed injuries
Six common delayed-onset pain symptoms that follow automobile collisions are:
- Abdominal pain, a symptom of possible internal bleeding
- Back pain, which could indicate injuries to the spine or ligaments; it may accompany whiplash
- Emotional upset, a potential symptom of brain injury such as concussion or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Headache, another symptom with whiplash, brain injury, or blood clots as a cause
- Numbness, which can accompany spine damage such as a disc herniation
- Neck and shoulder pain, which is common with whiplash, an injury that results from a snapping motion of your head and neck due to the forces of the collision
Even if you aren’t feeling pronounced symptoms, a visit to Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management of New York is still important to uncover hidden damage. It’s also wise from the standpoint of an insurance claim that could be affected by late-emerging symptoms. Call or click today to make sure you develop no painful surprises down the road.