The Most Common Car Accident Injuries That Go Undiagnosed

February 1, 2020 | By TIM SHANNAHAN- Chiropractor, San Diego, CA

No one gets into a car expecting an accident, but accidents are still far too common.

Hundreds of thousands of people get into car accidents every year in the United States. Many of these accidents are of the garden variety: fender benders or small scrapes that are an inconvenience but not the end of life as one knows it. Others are more serious, with potentially long-lasting impacts on a driver’s life.

Car accident injuries can be very serious, and many don’t reveal themselves to the injured until far after the time of an accident. Shock and adrenaline can cover up symptoms of serious problems, and some injuries can go on for long periods of time undiagnosed.

What kind of injuries should you be on the lookout for if you’ve been injured? Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.

Why Injuries Go Undiagnosed

In the immediate aftermath of an automobile accident, most people go into a state of shock. No one anticipates an accident after all, and depending on the severity of the incident, your body might become overwhelmed.

In this state of shock and fear, the body naturally pumps adrenaline into the body. Adrenaline is a key part of the human ‘fight-or-flight’ response. It’s intended to keep us strong, alert, and vigilant during moments of extreme danger. It’s a natural evolutionary tactic that is the key part of our survival instinct.

But that same rush of adrenaline that keeps us focused can also keep us out of touch with the reality of our bodies. Adrenaline intentionally masks pains, aches, and injuries so that we can continue to operate in moments of danger. That means you can be fairly injured and have no feeling or awareness of it in the moment.

It’s only many hours later, when the body has returned to a resting state, that these kinds of pains tend to reveal themselves. The time gap causes some people to shrug them off. Maybe they’ve already returned to their normal routines, or maybe they’ve already told others that they weren’t injured.

These injuries can easily go undiagnosed, but they shouldn’t: it’s important to see a doctor following any kind of accident. There are some common ones you can keep an eye out for.

Injuries To The Spinal Cord

One of the most common issues that result from a car accident is an injury to the spinal cord. You’re strapped in with a seat belt while driving, but the forward motion of an accident can still throw your head forward and back with great velocity.

This motion and the damage that results from it is known commonly as whiplash. Whiplash frequently goes undiagnosed because the damage caused to the spine and neck doesn’t show up on an X-Ray. Symptoms of whiplash include headaches, tightening in the neck and shoulders, and general pain and aches in these areas.

These symptoms might arise immediately after an accident, or they might not reveal themselves until as late as days later.

Headaches and Concussions

Many people think that the headaches they begin to feel following an accident or a sign of stress. But these shouldn’t be discounted so easily. There’s a chance that these headaches could be the sign of a much more serious problem.

Instead, these headaches might actually be stemming from a concussion. Even if a person’s head was directly impacted in an accident, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some sort of trauma to that area. A concussion can be a very serious issue, especially if left undiagnosed. Damage to the brain needs to be treated immediately.

Other symptoms of a concussion include foggy thinking, blurred sight, and difficulty sleeping. Slow reflexes and bad memory are also signs that you might have had some sort of trauma to the head during an accident.

Emotional Disorders and PTSD

Sometimes it’s the injuries that don’t manifest themselves physically that have the hardest time getting diagnosed. Many different psychological disorders can result from car accidents. It’s easy for a person to develop anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of an accident.

It may take a person who has been in an accident a long time before they feel comfortable enough to get back into a car. Panic attacks near roadways may be common, and a person might not feel like themselves for a while.

Personality changes following an accident are also not out of the ordinary. Changes in a person’s behavior or their attitudes towards others are more common following a serious accident than most people realize. Because these kinds of mental injuries are hard to track, they often go undiagnosed.

Sometimes, these kinds of changes might not present themselves for weeks or even months following an accident. It might even be difficult to trace the root of these issues back to the accident in question.

It’s a good idea for an accident victim to see a mental health specialist if they experience any of the above symptoms following an incident. With counseling, they might be able to return to a healthy mental state.

Injuries From A Car Accident

Far too often, injuries that result from a car accident can go undiagnosed. Injuries to the body and brain are never as clear as we assume they might be, and many people fail to catch what could be serious threats to their own well-being.

Have you been in an accident? Reach out to us anytime for help checking for and recovering from related injuries.