Any time someone is in a car accident their first instinct is usually to make sure everyone and everything involved is still intact. With heart racing and adrenaline pumping, most people don’t feel all the physical effects of an accident until days or weeks later. Once the initial shock finally wears off, however, the damage becomes more noticeable.

Speaking of Shock: What Is It and How Does It Mask an Injury?

Post-accident shock produces numerous symptoms which may make it difficult to recognize or focus on other injuries. According to a majority of medical professionals, those who survive car accidents are prone to experience more severe shock than those who experience shock due to mental, spiritual or emotional trauma.

Naturally, the degree to which survivors suffer from shock is typically related to the severity of the accident. Generally, the shock is accompanied by several indicators, including:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Weak pulse
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Clammy skin
  • Seizure
  • Unfocused eyes
  • Agitation and/or irritation
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain

Dizziness, confusion, disorientation, and irritation are all very difficult to manage, but they’re especially debilitating when they combine after a car accident. Each has a unique effect on the body – an effect that may cause latent pain and discomfort. Attempting to juggle emotions, concerns, and instructions simultaneously may make it impossible for you to notice an injury while there’s someone on-site to help.

If you think you or your passenger(s) are in shock, call for help immediately. If not, it’s important to spend the hours following a car accident paying close attention to your body. The injury may not be life-threatening, but it can get worse if you don’t address it in a timely manner.

The Most Common Delayed Symptoms After a Car Accident

Since not all the effects of a car accident are immediately noticeable, some people choose to ignore them or blame them on something else. However, all delayed car accident symptoms are worthy of being watched carefully and taken seriously. Research shows that more than 3 million people are injured in a car accident each year in the United States. Of those 3 million injured, nearly 2/3 experience life-long trauma.

Chiropractors for whiplash in Anchorage are constantly helping people who have been involved in automobile accidents. While most say their delayed symptoms started days or weeks after the fact, some claim their symptoms remained hidden for years. Unfortunately, neglecting to treat symptoms, whether immediate or delayed, can eventually lead to a worsened condition, if not permanent damage.

To stay proactive about your physical health and fight the deferred effects of a car accident, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Generalized pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Insomnia

Commonly, car accidents result in a minor soft tissue injury – an injury to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This may result in immediate or delayed symptoms such as:

  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Pinched nerves
  • Limited mobility
  • Pulled muscles
  • Whiplash

Each of those symptoms can tempt people to settle for swift band-aid solutions, a decision that’s not usually recommended. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, make an appointment with a licensed chiropractor before taking over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Understanding the Most Common Delayed Car Accident Symptom: Whiplash

Although whiplash may not always be a delayed symptom, it typically worsens if not treated properly. Masking the pain with pharmaceuticals may provide temporary relief but becoming too relaxed while injured could cause further tissue damage. It’s much wiser to treat whiplash with gentle, pain-free natural remedies – stretching, massage, acupressure, chiropractic adjustments, etc.

The effects of whiplash are substantial. In fact, whiplash symptoms themselves are very similar to the symptoms associated with being injured in a car accident. In other words, suffering from whiplash and nothing else may still make you feel like you’ve been in a wreck.

Expect the following symptoms if you experience whiplash during or after a car accident:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • Trouble turning your head
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

Luckily, whiplash is one of the easiest and most affordable car accident injuries to treat. In many cases, treatments are even covered by the patient’s insurance provider. Being proactive about your immediate and delayed car accident symptoms can help you get back to normal more quickly.

Have a trained chiropractor run tests to ensure your body isn’t harboring any hidden symptoms. He or she will diagnose any latent injuries, including whiplash, using the following techniques:

  • Chiropractic exams
  • Sensory tests
  • Posture evaluations
  • Orthopedic analysis
  • X-ray

The chiropractor will then work with you to formulate an easy-to-follow treatment approach that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

How to Treat Whiplash and Other Delayed Car Accident Symptoms

Knowing what helps whiplash and other accident side effects can make it easier to heal afterward. A knowledgeable chiropractor should use a variety of methods to provide gentle, natural relief, including but not limited to the following:

  • Light/Medium guided stretching
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Joint cavitation
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Rigorous massage
  • Heating/cooling
  • Acupuncture
  • Acupressure
  • Strengthening exercises

Unlike medical doctors, licensed chiropractors are not legally permitted to prescribe medications other than homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements. However, there are at least a dozen documented benefits associated with getting a timely chiropractic adjustment and at least two or three times as many negative side effects associated with taking most prescription medication.

3 Reasons Why Chiropractic Adjustments Are Good for Delayed Car Accident Symptoms

Chiropractors are known as the first holistic healers who, according to Michael Schneider from the University of Pittsburgh, focus their attention on natural ways to optimize “the whole person, not just the hurt body part.” He went on to say in his 2017 Time Magazine interview, “If people visited chiropractors . . .we’d see a lot fewer unnecessary tests, hospitalizations, and opioid prescriptions.”

Whether you’re dealing with the effects of shock, whiplash or generalized pain caused by being in a car accident, seeing a chiropractor is a good idea for three reasons:

  1. A chiropractic adjustment can balance bodily functions and treat injuries or straighten misalignments you didn’t know you had.
  2. Chiropractic adjustments tend to produce relatively high patient satisfaction, especially if that patient is relaxed and prepared.
  3. Chiropractic treatments are more affordable and efficient than traditional medical care.

If you’ve been in a car accident, regardless of how minor or major it was, make an appointment with a chiropractor in your area just to err on the side of caution. After all, your injuries can have a big impact on many things.


Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada and Western States Chiropractic College. Founder of Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage, he is a respected chiropractor in Anchorage who specializes in rehabilitative therapy and massage therapy at his multi-disciplinary clinic.