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Car accidents can happen quickly over the tiniest distraction or stray driver in your vehicle’s path. The best way to prevent injuries is to adhere to proven car safety practices, like keeping your eyes on the road. Plus, always wear your seatbelt, and avoid doing anything that takes your hands off the wheel.

Fortunately, seatbelts and advanced safety features help prevent many fatal car accidents. However, post-collision injury symptoms might not arise until weeks after a crash. So look out for these six delayed symptoms that might follow an auto accident.

Numbness and tingling after a car accident

Andrew Wegrzyn of Chicago, Illinois, shows his facial and scalp injuries he sustained in a car accident in 2011
Andrew Wegrzyn of Chicago shows his head injuries from a 2011 car accident | Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

These two sensations are easily ignored because they don’t usually interfere with daily activities. However, they can often indicate a pinched nerve and should be evaluated by a medical professional. That’s because numbness or tingling could be a sign of internal bleeding, blood clots, or damage to your brain and spinal cord. All of these problems are potentially life-threatening if left untreated, Sawaya Law explains.

PTSD following a car crash

Some people dismiss post-traumatic stress disorder as simple nervousness, but flashbacks to the car accident can be deeply upsetting. PTSD often manifests in physical symptoms such as stomach pains, sweating, ringing ears, and shakiness. Depending upon the severity of the accident, it might cause some people to avoid driving altogether. 

This can cause them to miss important appointments and fail to attend work or school. That feeling of failure, combined with the leftover trauma from the accident, can cause depression. If you feel mentally unwell after an accident, a combination of therapy and medication is recommended. In the U.S. and Canada, texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741 reaches a crisis counselor for support.

Abdominal discomfort

Although lingering fears of another crash can cause an upset stomach, the pain might signal a more serious problem. If you notice your abdomen is unusually swollen, there could be internal bleeding. That, in turn, can cause nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. The good news is that stomach pain is relatively quick to appear after a car accident, so you can get it treated immediately.

Back pain

Your back might be sore after getting into a fender-bender, but persistent pain needs to be addressed. It could be a symptom of ligament or muscle damage, which requires extra rest and possibly pain medication. In more serious cases, it might be a spinal cord injury or herniated disc that requires immediate medical attention, Ben Crump Law explains.

Backaches can also extend all the way down to your legs if left untreated. This could interfere with your mobility and make driving a car unsafe. It could also cause long-term physical or neurological disabilities and chronic pain even years after the accident.

Stiff neck or shoulders

Shoulder and neck stiffness can be hard to distinguish from poor posture or awkward sleeping positions. However, RiteCare says these two symptoms are often caused by whiplash after a car accident. This is very common when a collision causes you to jolt forward in your seat.

You can resolve most cases of whiplash with neck exercises, cold compresses, and possibly pain medication. However, you should always get an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI after the accident as a precaution. Neck and shoulder pain can also be caused by torn ligaments or a rotator cuff injury.


Although not immediately apparent, the impact of a collision can cause concussions and potentially fatal brain injuries. The earliest symptoms of these problems are persistent headaches, dizziness, and confusion. If left untreated, they could cause basic motor function issues or memory problems.

Car accidents are physically and emotionally damaging. And if your car was totaled in a crash, trying to find a new one could cause even more stress. However, you should never put off medical care after something as serious as a collision.


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