If you were recently in a traffic accident, you may still feel sore in some parts or all of your body. People provide different responses to the question of how long soreness should last after an accident. Some experts say a few weeks and others say it can last for more than six months. Each accident and injury is different, so it is impossible to predict how many weeks or months you will feel sore. One thing is for sure, you will likely remain sore for longer than you expect after a car accident. Several factors impact the length of time you will suffer from soreness after a car accident.
We cannot and do not provide medical advice, but we want to share our experiences of working with car accident victims over the decades. We have developed this guide to provide some information about the types of accident injuries that leave victims sore, and other factors that can affect the duration of soreness after a car accident.
If you are still feeling sore after being in a car accident days or weeks ago, you need to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Not only do you want to have your pain documented, but continued soreness could indicate that your injuries are worse than you originally thought or that you are not recovering as expected.
Car Accident Injuries that Lead to Continued Soreness
The impact of a traffic accident can injure drivers and occupants in several ways. Soreness is sometimes your body’s direct response to getting hurt. Other times, soreness is a sign of another injury. The following injuries commonly cause car accident victims to feel sore for some time after a car accident:
Soft Tissue Injury
Soft tissue damage is one of the most common injuries that could leave you sore after a car accident. Soft tissue refers to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Although soft tissue damage can occur from repetitive use and cause issues like swimmer’s shoulder and tennis elbow, the type of soft tissue injuries that occur in traffic accidents are a result of external forces from the accident that cause acute trauma to your body.
Sprains and strains are the most common soft tissue injuries. A sprain—which is a partial tear—occurs when a tendon or ligament stretches beyond its normal range of motion; a strain is the same thing as a sprain, but it refers to muscles instead of ligaments or tendons. When sprains and strains are bad, you might experience soreness for a long time. When mild sprains occur, much or all of your soreness will likely subside in a few months.
Sometimes, soft tissue damage is severe. Accident victims might suffer a complete tear of a ligament or tendon. These situations typically require surgical repair. Depending on how well the injury heals, discomfort might last for years. During the healing process scar tissue develops at the site of the injury, making victims more prone to future injuries.
Whiplash is also a soft tissue injury, but it gets special treatment because it is among the most common car accident injuries. Most car accident victims suffer some level of whiplash from the force of impact during a collision.
Whiplash refers to the injury that occurs when muscles and ligaments in the neck get violently stretched beyond their normal range during a car accident. It causes soreness in and around the neck and sometimes down the back a bit. Some are fortunate enough to only suffer a mild case of whiplash that heals quickly, and their soreness disappears within a few months. Those who suffer a severe case of whiplash can suffer chronic pain and soreness for life, negatively impacting their quality of life.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Studies show that about 20 percent of those who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) never make a full recovery, and cope with chronic pain. Car accidents cause traumatic brain injuries from the force of impact shaking a person’s brain around inside their skull. Blunt force trauma from objects flying around in a car, or from a driver or occupant hitting their head on the seat, dashboard, or steering column.
Concussions medically referred to as “mild” TBIs, can sometimes result in lifelong symptoms and struggles for car accident victims. Frequent headaches and neck pain are the most common type of soreness that TBI victims suffer. The location and extent of the soreness depend on the part of the head and brain that suffered an injury.
Some concussions and TBIs heal quickly within a few months without intervention. Once the injury heals, the pain and soreness generally subside. Others continue to suffer from pain and soreness. This can be debilitating. Ongoing headaches and continued soreness could indicate severe or life-threatening issues. If you have been in a car accident and are still suffering soreness, you should once again get checked out by your doctor to protect your health and wellness.
If you sustained one or more fractures during a traffic accident, you might be wearing a splint or cast to let your breaks heal. The healing process can leave you sore during the six or eight weeks your bones are immobilized. Unfortunately, soreness does not always disappear after accident victims quit wearing their splint or have a cast removed. You will likely suffer some residual soreness.
Depending on the location, nature, and severity of your fracture(s), you could face arthritis later in life, which can force you to deal with bouts of soreness because your break did not heal correctly. Sometimes, soreness can also be a symptom of a hairline fracture or break that x-rays failed to reveal.
The impact of a car collision can cause a variety of back injuries, including fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, and slipped discs. Sometimes these injuries occur in concert with soft tissue injuries in the back. Depending on your exact injuries and their severity, you might feel soreness for weeks, months, or years. Severe back injuries typically require surgery to correct any problems. Yet, even with surgery, soreness and discomfort might not go away.
Car accidents can also cause pinched nerves when a back injury or a spinal cord injury occurs. In each case, general soreness is normal around the site of the injury. These types of injuries typically need medical intervention to heal and alleviate any accompanying pain or soreness.
Internal Organ Damage
When car accident victims walk away from an accident, some assume they do not need to seek out medical treatment. After all, they are only a little sore and maybe have a few bumps and bruises. Avoiding medical treatment after an accident is a mistake in many cases. Soreness might be something simple like a sprain or strain that heals on its own.
But soreness can also signify a severe or potentially fatal injury. For example, soreness in the abdomen might indicate internal bleeding or internal organ damage. When internal injuries go untreated, they can cause more damage and in the most severe situations, they can kill their victims.
Factors Affecting How Long You Feel Sore After a Car Accident
The injuries that can cause you to be sore after a car accident vary, and so does the time it takes you to recover. Some injuries simply heal more quickly and better than others. Yet, other injuries can cause ongoing soreness as a result of a few different factors.
- Age. Our bodies are natural wonders that heal themselves when an injury occurs. Yet, as we age our body function slows. In most cases, the older a car accident victim is, the longer it will take to heal, which means soreness will stick around longer.
- The speed upon impact. When vehicles collide while traveling fast, the force of impact is much greater. An increased force leads to more severe injuries that can leave you feeling sore for weeks or months after a car accident. Accidents that occur at high speeds also increase the likelihood of a permanent injury that causes lifelong pain and soreness.
- The use of safety devices. Safety devices in vehicles—such as seat belts and airbags—save lives during car accidents. Yet, their use often leads to bruising and sometimes fractures. Seat belt and airbag injuries can increase the time you feel soreness after a car accident.
Soreness is common after most car accidents and should not be brushed off. If you have been in a car accident, it is in your best interest to have a physician examine you for common car accident injuries as soon as possible to ensure healing goes well.
Treating Soreness After a Car Accident
Your doctor will create a treatment plan for you based on your car accident injuries. Following that plan will help you recover more quickly.
Depending on your injuries and your doctor’s advice, some things you might do to help your soreness include:
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.) is a common at-home remedy for soreness and minor to moderate sprains and strains. One of the best things you can do to promote recovery is to allow your body to rest, so it has time to repair itself after a car accident. R.I.C.E. can help with initial soft tissue injuries so acute or throbbing pain goes away, but associated soreness can still last for some time. Listen to your doctor and your body, and get the rest you need.
Your body creates scar tissue at the site of injury during the healing process. As your body repairs cells, you might find your soreness also comes with a tightness that makes it difficult to move certain parts of the body. Massage can promote healing and help alleviate some of your pain and soreness by relaxing your soft tissues. Massage therapy includes regular massage, but some therapists also use other techniques such as deep tissue massage to help relieve tension and soreness in car accident victims.
Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist as part of your rehabilitation after a car accident. Depending on the severity and nature of your injuries, you might begin PT in a few weeks, a few months, or longer. Your therapist will design a specific regimen targeted to helping you recover lost functions, build muscle, and alleviate pain and soreness. You can expect simple exercises and stretches that increase in difficulty as time goes on. Physical therapy is a vital part of the healing process that helps ensure new tissues in your body become as strong as possible in comparison to the injured tissues.
Stretching and Yoga
Practicing yoga and stretching every day provides many of the same benefits for car accident victims as physical therapy. In fact, your physical therapist will likely suggest specific stretches that target your injured area. Yoga promotes health and relaxation that is connected to deep breathing and stretching your body to its fullest range of motion. Deep breathing provides oxygen to your body and muscles, which promotes tissue repair and helps eliminate or reduce some types of soreness after a car accident.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries After a Car Accident
When soreness indicates a severe injury or sticks with you longer than it should, recovering damages related to your injuries will likely be on your mind if another person caused your car accident. Continued treatment is expensive. Depending on your level of pain and discomfort, you might not work for some time, while medical treatment costs roll in.
Even before your soreness starts to subside, you have likely been to the emergency room. As your healing progresses, you might need more diagnostic scans and continue to lose income for missing work. Depending on your situation, you might seek compensation for damages in civil court. Contact a car accident attorney who can evaluate your case as soon as possible.