Why does pain get worse after a car accident?

Why does pain get worse after a car accident?

As a victim of a car accident, you've likely experienced an increase in pain in the days and weeks following the traumatic event. This worsening discomfort often catches accident victims by surprise and can be frightening or frustrating to deal with during an already difficult time. However, there are several reasons why pain frequently intensifies and changes after a car accident. Understanding the underlying causes can help you better cope with your symptoms, know what to expect in your recovery, and determine if medical intervention may provide relief. Talk with a Texas Car Accident Lawyer to get started if you feel you have a case. 

The Science Behind Why Injuries Worsen After Car Accidents

After a car accident, pain often seems to intensify over time rather than improve. There are several physiological reasons why this occurs:


In the wake of trauma, the body mounts an inflammatory response. Chemicals are released that cause swelling in the tissues surrounding the injury. This inflammation puts pressure on pain receptors and nerve endings, increasing discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications can help provide relief during this stage.

Muscle Spasms

The body's muscles often spasm or cramp in response to injury. These involuntary contractions can be quite painful and difficult to alleviate. Muscle relaxants, massage therapy, and heat/ice application may help reduce spasms.

Scar Tissue Formation

As the body heals from injury, scar tissue develops to patch damaged areas. This scar tissue is inflexible and often adheres to underlying tissues, limiting mobility and pulling on pain receptors. Physical therapy and stretching exercises can help break up scar tissue adhesions and restore range of motion.

Psychological Effects

There are also psychological components at play. Anxiety, stress, fear, and depression can all intensify the perception of pain. Counseling, relaxation techniques, and medication may be needed to address these psychological impacts.

In summary, worsening pain after an accident is usually not a cause for alarm but rather an expected result of the body's natural healing processes and reactions. However, if pain is severe, does not start to improve within a few weeks, or is accompanied by other symptoms, consult your physician for an evaluation and proper treatment. With time and the right combination of rest, medication, therapy, and self-care most people can overcome even serious injuries.

How Adrenaline Masks Injuries in the Immediate Aftermath

After a car accident, the pain you experience in the immediate aftermath and over the following days can worsen significantly. This is due to several physiological effects that occur as a result of the trauma.

How Adrenaline Masks Injuries Initially

When an accident happens, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that acts as a natural painkiller and provides you with energy. While the adrenaline is surging through your body, you may feel little pain from injuries. However, as the adrenaline wears off over the next few hours, the pain from strains, sprains, fractures, and other damage becomes increasingly apparent. The pain may feel more intense than what you experienced right after the collision.

Swelling also develops around the injured areas, putting pressure on muscles, joints, and nerves. This swelling further amplifies your discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling, but it still takes time for the body to heal.

If you've suffered internal injuries, the pain may worsen when you return home and the adrenaline fully wears off. It's critical to go to an emergency room or see a doctor right away if intense pain develops, especially in the abdomen or chest. Internal bleeding or organ damage requires immediate treatment.

The physiological effects in the aftermath of an accident often mask the severity of injuries for a short period. However, as the adrenaline rush subsides and swelling develops, pain becomes the warning sign that the damage may be more extensive than initially realized. Seeking prompt medical care is critical, especially if pain is severe or does not improve. Early diagnosis and treatment give you the best chance of recovering fully from your injuries.

Why It's Crucial to Get Checked Out After Any Collision

After a car accident, it’s common for pain to intensify or new pain to develop in the days and weeks following the collision. There are a few reasons why this occurs:

Delayed Onset of Symptoms

Immediately following an accident, your body experiences an adrenaline rush that acts as a natural painkiller and masks symptoms you may have sustained. Once your adrenaline levels return to normal, you may start to feel pain from injuries like muscle strains, fractures, or internal damage. It’s critical to get evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible after an accident to determine if you have any injuries that require treatment.

Soft Tissue Damage

Whiplash and other soft tissue injuries like sprains often worsen over the first few days following trauma. Swelling and inflammation develop, putting pressure on muscles, tendons, and nerves. While rest, ice, compression and elevation can provide some relief, you may need medication or physical therapy to manage pain from soft tissue damage. Seeking medical care promptly is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis and start proper treatment.

Stress and Tension

Being in a car accident is an extremely stressful and frightening experience. The anxiety and tension from such an event can manifest as physical pain, especially in the neck, back, and shoulders. Practicing self-care techniques like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing may help alleviate stress-related pain. However, it’s still important to get evaluated to rule out any underlying injuries.

In summary, pain that appears or worsens after a car accident should not be ignored. Seeking prompt medical attention is critical to get an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and peace of mind that any injuries have been properly addressed. An experienced doctor can determine the source of your pain and recommend a treatment plan to help you recover from your accident.

Soft Tissue Injuries and Delayed Pain Onset

Soft tissue injuries like strains, sprains, and muscle tears often do not cause immediate pain after a car accident. The adrenaline rush that occurs during a collision can mask discomfort from these kinds of injuries for hours or even days. As the adrenaline wears off and swelling develops, pain signals from soft tissue damage finally reach the brain, leading to a delayed onset of symptoms.

Muscle Strains and Tears

Trauma from the impact during an accident can cause micro tears or macro tears in muscles and tendons. These tears lead to inflammation, soreness, and pain that worsens over the following 24 to 48 hours. Pain from strains and tears tends to feel achy, sharp, and is often worse with movement or pressure on the affected area.


Ligament sprains also produce pain that intensifies over the first couple of days after an injury. Sprains occur when ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that connect bones together, are twisted, pulled, or torn. The most common locations for sprains after a car accident are the neck, back, knees, and ankles. Sprains lead to instability, swelling, bruising, and throbbing pain that worsens with activity.

Trigger Points and Referred Pain

Trauma can activate trigger points, tight knots within a muscle that refer pain to other areas. For example, a trigger point in the neck might cause pain that radiates down to the shoulder and arm. Referred pain from trigger points often does not appear until a day or two after injury as the muscles tighten and swell. Applying pressure to trigger points reproduces the referred pain pattern, helping therapists determine the underlying cause.

The onset of pain from soft tissue injuries is often delayed, but when symptoms do appear, it is best to consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. They can determine if any damage requires imaging, physical therapy, medication, bracing, or other interventions to promote healing and prevent long-term issues.

What to Do if Your Pain Persists or Worsens Post-Accident

If your pain persists or worsens after a car accident, there are several steps you should take.

See a Doctor Right Away

Seeking prompt medical attention is critical. A doctor can properly assess your injuries, determine if any diagnostic testing is needed, and prescribe medications to help manage your pain. They can also refer you to specialists if needed. Failure to get timely treatment could lead to long-term health issues or complications.

Follow the Prescribed Treatment Plan

Carefully follow any course of treatment recommended by your doctors, such as physical therapy, medication, rest, or rehabilitation. Staying committed to your prescribed treatment plan will give you the best chance of recovering from your injuries. Inform your doctor right away if your pain is not improving with the current treatment approach.

Get Plenty of Rest

Rest gives your body the time it needs to heal. Make sure to get extra sleep, limit stressful activities, and avoid strenuous exercise. Gentle movement like short walks can be beneficial, but don't push yourself. Listen to your body and rest when you feel pain.

Use Ice and Heat

Ice can help reduce inflammation while heat relaxes tense muscles. Apply ice for 10-20 minutes several times a day to swollen or sore areas. Use a heating pad on tense areas, but be very careful to avoid burns. These therapies provide natural relief from discomfort.

Consider Consulting an Attorney

If your pain and injuries are severe or long-lasting, consider speaking to a personal injury attorney. They can advise you on your legal options for seeking compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses related to your car accident. The at-fault driver's insurance should cover these costs, but an attorney can help ensure you receive fair compensation.

The most important steps are to get prompt medical care, follow your doctor's orders closely, rest adequately, and use ice/heat for natural pain relief. Speaking with an attorney may also be advisable if your pain is persistent or worsening. With proper treatment and time, most pain from auto accidents will subside. However, some injuries can lead to chronic pain if not properly addressed.

Call A Texas Car Accident Lawyer At Fletcher Law

As a victim of a car accident, you may notice your pain seems to intensify over time. There are several reasons why pain can worsen after an accident.


In the days following a collision, inflammation develops around the injured areas of your body. Swelling puts pressure on surrounding nerves and tissue, increasing discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain from inflammation.

Muscle Spasms

Damage to muscles and connective tissue often leads to painful spasms. These involuntary contractions cause soreness at the site of injury and can also trigger tension headaches. Applying heat, ice, and gentle massage therapy may relieve spasms and ease pain.

Stress and Anxiety

The trauma of a car accident commonly causes feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression which can amplify your perception of pain. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help lower stress and ease discomfort. Speaking to a counselor or therapist may also help you cope with emotional distress following a collision.

Nerve Damage

Injuries that put pressure on or sever sensitive nerves lead to sharp, shooting pain. Nerve damage can also cause numbness, tingling, and loss of motor function. Medications specifically for nerve pain may be required to manage this type of discomfort. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair damaged nerves.

The effects of a car accident on your body and mind often worsen over the first days and weeks. If your pain is not improving or is interfering with daily activities, consult your doctor right away. They can properly assess your injuries, determine the underlying causes of worsening pain, and recommend an effective treatment plan so you can start to heal and recover.


The pain you are experiencing now may seem unbearable and unjust, but there is hope. With the right treatment plan, patience, and time, most people do recover from injuries sustained in auto accidents. The most important thing is to ensure you get proper medical diagnosis and care as early as possible. While the road ahead is long, stay focused on your recovery. Connecting with others who have had similar experiences may help put your mind at ease. Contact Fletcher Law’s Texas Injury Lawyers for help today. 

Though it can be difficult, try to maintain an optimistic and determined outlook. Healing will come, though perhaps not as quickly as you'd like. Have faith in your body's ability to mend itself and in the skills of your medical team. The pain will lessen, mobility will increase, and normalcy will return. Stay strong.