Why Whiplash Pain Sustained After an Auto Accident Is Often Delayed

More than 2.3 million people in the US end up injured or disabled in car accidents each year, but it can take days, even mont

Car accidents can happen in a blink. But their impact on your body can last a lifetime. So why does it take so long for these injuries, such as whiplash, to develop?

At Premier Spine Institute, our founder, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, brings his expertise as an orthopedic surgeon to diagnosing and treating back and neck pain. He also understands that your body reacts to traumatic events in very specific ways, which can keep your symptoms from appearing immediately. If you’ve been in an accident, visit one of our locations in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown, Texas.

Your body’s natural response to stress and trauma

When you’re in an accident, your first thoughts are likely about the collision. But, the impact of the car isn’t the only thing happening during these situations. Your body actually activates its own defense system in response to danger by releasing two hormones: adrenaline and endorphins. 

Surges of adrenaline in your body activate the “fight or flight” response, including:

While adrenaline activates your fight or flight response, endorphins provide a more calming response. This helps you feel in control and relaxed, helping you to better manage pain and stress.

Because your body releases these hormones during an auto accident, they can conceal any sign of pain, even when you have obvious indications of injury.

Some injuries take time to develop

It’s no secret that car accidents cause serious trauma to the delicate and complex structures of your spine and neck because of the sudden impact involved. This type of damage can affect any part of your body, from the soft tissue of your neck muscles to the rubbery intervertebral discs in your spine.

Unlike a broken bone, though, soft tissue damage — especially whiplash — develops because of swelling and inflammation. These responses to trauma don’t happen instantaneously. 

Similarly, if you have a damaged disc, it moves out of position, applying pressure on surrounding nerves. As the nerves become irritated, inflammation develops, triggering symptoms like sciatica. Because of the nature of these auto injuries, it can take days, weeks, or months for symptoms to occur.

The most common symptoms seen after an auto accident include:

Some of these delayed car accident symptoms can be a sign of a serious injury, which makes it even more important to seek medical attention immediately.


If you’ve been in a car accident, don’t wait to have a physical assessment. Call us at Premier Spine Institute or send us a message here on our website to schedule an appointment today.

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