How Long After a Car Accident Can Injuries Appear?

After a car accident some people may believe they feel fine and are able to drive home,  but later that same day or soon after they start to experience symptoms of whiplash, a concussion, sprained neck, or other injuries. How can that be?

If you’re wondering how long after a car accident you might experience the after-effects of your crash, we have good news: it very much depends on your personal circumstances. Some people recover quickly; others take days or weeks. In this article, we’ll go over what you need to know about the time it takes for car accident injuries to show, what signs of delayed car accident injuries to expect, and what you should do next.

How Long Do Car Accident Injuries Take to Appear?

There’s no set amount of time after a car accident when all injuries will show up. In fact, some may never appear at all. The time it takes to experience car accident injuries will depend on a few factors, including:

  • What the accident was like – How severe the accident was, and how fast you were traveling. A high-speed accident will increase the chances of immediate physical injuries.
  • Your body’s health – If you have a chronic condition or take medication, it could take longer for you to feel the effects of a car accident.
  • Your age – An older body will likely take longer to heal than a younger one.
  • Your body’s position in the car – If you were in a position that wasn’t ideal for the accident, you may experience delayed injuries.

Why Don’t Some Car Accident Injuries Show Up Immediately?

Some car accident injuries take time to appear because of the nature of the injury itself. Some injuries heal on their own but may take days or weeks to become obvious. Sprains and strains are examples of this: they cause damage to tissues and muscles that may not be immediately noticeable. When tissues are damaged, they may swell and become inflamed. Over the course of a few days or weeks, these tissues will heal and the swelling will go down. Other injuries are less obvious right away because of the way they affect the nervous system. The nervous system controls how your body moves, so injuries to this system can cause problems with symptoms that aren’t obvious. Injuries like whiplash or a concussion may show up as headaches or dizziness, or they may cause long-term problems like neck pain or problems with thinking and remembering.

Car Accident Injuries That Take Time to Appear

How Long After a Car Accident Can Injuries Appear

Often, injuries appearing several hours after the car crash prompt victims to seek medical treatment. However, if it has been a few hours, days, or even weeks since the crash and you are just now noticing signs of injury but have not yet seen a doctor, make an appointment or go to the emergency room/nearest urgent care center right away. These injuries can be very serious and, in the worst cases, life-threatening.

Some common examples of car accident injuries that take time to appear include:

Sprain or Strain 

Damage to muscles or ligaments in your joints. A strain is mild, a sprain is more severe: the ligaments in your joints have been overstretched and may have torn.


A concussion is a result of a hard blow to your head that causes damage to your brain. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, and difficulty thinking clearly.


Whiplash is an injury to the muscles, nerves, and ligaments in your neck. It usually happens when the head is thrown forward or back with a sudden movement, like when you’re in a car accident. Symptoms include headaches, neck pain, and problems with memory and concentration.

Internal Bleeding

Blunt trauma usually happens in car accidents,  with body parts colliding with objects, causing blood vessels to be torn or crushed through high speed and extreme force. It can take around 24 hours to three days for internal bleeding or “seatbelt syndrome” to manifest.

Neck & Back Injuries

The neck and back are one of the most vulnerable areas after a car crash because of the jerking motion and impact after a crash. Injuries like herniated discs, pinched nerve, or other spinal injuries may be more noticeable after a few days.

Mental Health Issues

Car accidents not only cause physical damage but mental health conditions as well. The trauma from car accidents may lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues which may not appear immediately.

Signs of Delayed Car Accident Injuries to Look Out For

While some delayed car accident injuries are obvious right away, some aren’t as obvious. If you’re worried that you might have a delayed injury, keep an eye out for headaches that get worse over time or problems with memory and concentration. This could be caused by a traumatic brain injury.

Prolonged neck pain can come from a whiplash injury. Unlike sprains and strains, whiplash doesn’t cause pain and swelling right away.

Some car accident injuries, like a concussion, can also cause changes in sleep. Mood swings, anxiety, and debilitating phobias may be caused by mental health-related conditions and should be brought to a doctor’s attention as soon as possible. Other symptoms to be wary of include changes in vison or hearing, loss of balance, and chronic pain.

What Should You Do If You Experience Delayed Car Accident Symptoms?

Experience Delayed Car Accident Symptoms

If you experience symptoms of delayed car accident injuries, it’s important to see your doctor. Your doctor can determine the best course of action for you. Depending on the type of injury, you may need to take tests like an MRI or CT scan to rule out more serious conditions, like a brain bleed. You may also be recommended to do physical therapy and rehabilitation.

In any case, it is important to keep an eye out for any symptoms after a car accident. Here, at Affordable Chiropractic, we have the experience to help you with pain management, active rehabilitation, and spinal decompression among others. Contact Affordable Chiropractic today for holistic car accident injury treatment.