How Long Should You Be Sore After a Car Accident?

Getting into a car accident carries with it so many new worries: insurance, property damage, and new anxiety around driving. One of the aspects of car accidents that is so scary to many people is the potential for injury or even death. This worry is not without reason. In 2019, local police departments recorded almost 7 million traffic accidents, and those only include those that were reported. Of these 7 million, nearly 3 million resulted in injury for at least one of the people involved. This is why it is important to know car accident chiropractors for when an unfortunate accident happens.

The people who sustain injuries are often eager to return back to their normal lives, and if they are experiencing any form of pain, they may wonder when the pain or soreness will subside. The answer is: it depends! Some injuries caused by car accidents heal within days, while others might cause pain for months or longer.

Skin Injuries

Your skin is your largest organ and covers the most surface area of any in your body. Of all the organs in your body, it is also the most exposed during any given time, but especially during a car accident. It makes sense then that injuries to your skin are more common than any other form of injury and that these injuries may cause some lasting soreness.

  • Bruises are caused by damaged blood vessels leaking blood that accumulates under the skin. They heal within two weeks.
  • Incisions are cuts to the skin. A surface-level cut will heal in just a few days, while deeper cuts that require interventions like stitches will take longer. Recovery will also depend on whether or not the cut becomes infected.
  • Abrasions, also known as scrapes, are also prone to infection. However, if treated properly, they usually heal within a few days.

Head Injuries

Impact to the head area is a common contributor to injury for both drivers and passengers. Such injuries can take many forms. Some, like bruising of the skin, usually heal within a week or two. However, more serious injuries take a little more time. Some car accident injuries may be delayed and can manifest through headaches. This can indicate more serious head injuries that can be classified as traumatic brain injuries. Because the brain is so important for the function of your body, any damage to it can cause problems throughout the rest of your body.

  • Concussion: Usually a more mild injury for the majority of people, and especially common in car accidents. Symptoms usually resolve within a couple of weeks, though there are some people who experience complications that cause symptoms to last longer.
  • Contusion: Any bruise is called a contusion. However, contusions that occur within the brain are more serious. Recovery takes from three weeks to six months.
  • Diffuse axonal: These occur when the impact from a car accident causes your brain to shift rapidly within the skull, causing tears to brain tissues. 88% of patients return to an independent life within 6 months.

Neck Injuries

Depending on where the impact occurs during your collision, your neck may end up bearing a lot of the resulting force. Any of the 20+ muscles in that area, as well as the tendons, ligaments, bones, and other tissues that support it, are vulnerable to injury during an accident.

Whiplash is the most common neck injury that occurs during car crashes and affects over two million people each year. The severity of your injury and your whiplash treatment will determine the length of your recovery period, but most people will experience full recovery by three months after the initial injury.

Other common neck injuries include:

  • Slipped or herniated discs, described in more detail below
  • Cervical spondylolisthesis: a condition characterized by misalignment of the vertebrae, which carries a recovery time that depends fully on your age, usual activity level, and treatment plan, which often includes surgery
  • Facet joint injuries: occur in the joints that stabilize your neck and back and allow them to move flexibly; recovery usually takes only a few weeks

Musculoskeletal Injuries

Your musculoskeletal system is the word for the way your muscles and skeleton work together. Injuries to one often causes or is caused by injury to the other, especially during a car accident.

Some soreness after a car accident can be attributed to a mild strain of your muscles, in which case you should feel total relief from your pain within a few days, as long as you take the time to rest and use over-the-counter medications properly. However, if the pain persists or seems to worsen, you may be dealing with a more serious condition. Sometimes, that can even include a broken bone, as fractures often go unnoticed and can only be diagnosed with the use of an x-ray.

Internal Injuries

Not all injuries happen to the parts of your body that you can see, and some such injuries also tend to take time to make themselves known. Car accident victims often are diagnosed with internal injuries; that is, their doctor finds some form of damage to an internal organ. Your internal organs include things like your heart, liver, lungs, gallbladder, and other similar parts of your body.

One of the first signs of an internal injury is internal bleeding. Depending on which organ has been damaged, you may or may not see signs of this yourself. However, it is very likely that the area where the organ is will feel tender or painful.

Because internal injuries are difficult to ascertain without specialized medical tools, it is important to seek medical attention if you notice anything causing you pain in the days after a car accident. Some internal injuries, like internal bruising, are relatively minor and you will only be sore for a few days. Others can be extremely serious and should be treated immediately.

Treating Soreness

Your treatment depends on your injury as well as other factors like your lifestyle, pre-existing health conditions, and the people who make up your medical team. You may be asked to rest for a certain period of time or you may be prescribed medication to help you manage pain and other symptoms of your condition. For some people who are injured in a car accident, chiropractors are an especially helpful resource.