Causes of Muscle Pain After Car Accidents | What to Do Next

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If you’ve recently been involved in a car accident, it is normal to experience muscle pain. The blunt force of an accident can damage nearly every structure in your body, especially soft tissues like muscles. During an accident, the fibers that make up your tissue can be stretched, torn, or injured. Car accident muscle pain can last from six to eight weeks.

Just because muscle pain is normal, it doesn’t mean a doctor shouldn’t check it out.  Muscle pain after a car accident may be caused by severe sprains, strains, whiplash, or seat belt injuries that require medical attention. Immediate medical care can help alleviate muscle discomfort and treat underlying injuries before they get worse. Read on to learn what to do for muscle pain after a car accident.

Common Car Accident Injuries that Cause Muscle Pain

Car accidents are traumatic events that can cause numerous painful injuries. Even just a minor fender bender can twist or stretch the soft tissues of the body and can create what is known as soft tissue injuries. These injuries can cause muscle pain, weakness, and even loss of function.

More serious motor vehicle accidents can also injure the tougher structures of the body, like bones and joints. Damaged bones and joints can irritate surrounding soft tissues, causing additional muscle aches. Below are the most common car accident injuries that cause muscle pain.

1. Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are among the most common soft tissue injuries from a car accident. A sprain occurs when a ligament has been stretched or torn. Ligaments are a type of connective tissue that attaches two bones or connects a joint. Many joint injuries also cause ligament sprains.

A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon has been stretched or torn. Muscles are a type of skeletal tissue that gives our body movement and strength. Tendons are another type of connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Many car accident strains affect both muscles and tendons.

Sprains and strains affect different types of soft tissue, but they share similar symptoms. Sprain or strain symptoms include muscle aches, swelling, weakness, redness at the injury site, and muscle spasms. A spasm occurs when a muscle involuntarily contracts, causing pain.

2. Whiplash Injury

Whiplash is a type of soft tissue injury that affects the neck and upper back. A whiplash injury occurs when the neck is forcibly bent forward and backward, or side to side, during a car accident. This movement stretches and tears the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the neck and upper back.

Whiplash symptoms often include neck pain, upper back pain, fatigue, muscle aches, and stiffness, Headaches located at the bottom of the skull are also common. Severe whiplash can cause muscle spasms and a limited range of motion in the neck. When left untreated, whiplash may result in chronic pain.

3. Fractured Vertebrae

Your “backbone” is actually made up of 33 smaller bones called vertebrae. These bones interlock with each other to create the spinal column. The force of a car accident can partially or entirely break one or more of your vertebrae, causing muscle pain at the injury site.

Severe fractures may cause small pieces of bone to enter the spinal canal and cause a spinal injury, leading to paralysis or permanent loss of feelings. If you’re experiencing symptoms like tingling, numbness, weakness or partial paralysis, and muscle spasms, visit a doctor immediately.

4. Spinal Disc Injury

A spinal disc, also called an intervertebral disc, is a rubbery cushion located between each vertebra in your spine. Spinal discs act as a type of shock absorber to protect you from a spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, the shock of a car crash can be too significant for your discs, and they can rupture.

A ruptured disc is more commonly referred to as a herniated disc. Car accidents frequently cause herniated discs in the upper and lower back. Herniated disc symptoms include swelling, muscle aches, spasms, burning or tingling, lower back pain, and upper back pain.

It’s common for a spinal disc injury like a herniated disc to cause a pinched nerve. The swelling from the disc injury can put pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves, causing shooting pain and numbness in the arms and legs. Pinched nerves are a common cause of back pain after a crash.

5. Facet Joint Injury

The individual bones of the spine are all connected by facet joints. A facet joint injury occurs when the rapid movement of a car accident shifts the joint out of alignment or damages the connective tissue that holds the joint together. Facet joint injuries typically occur in the neck and upper back.

Since soft tissues like ligaments often support facet joints, it’s common to feel muscle aches with a facet joint injury. Other symptoms of a facet joint injury include neck pain, back pain, soreness, stiffness, and limited range of motion.

Woman putting seatbelt on in car.

6. Seat Belt Injury

Like airbags, seat belts are often life-savers during car accidents. However, how tight they must restrict your body to protect from harm may injure tissues in the neck, shoulder, upper back, chest, and stomach. Sometimes, muscle pain from a seat belt may be a sign of serious injury.

A seat belt may cause abdominal pain that could signify internal bleeding or damage to organs. Abdominal injuries can be life-threatening when left untreated. Visit a doctor for symptoms of an abdominal injury, including bruising, fatigue, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.

7. Airbag Injury

Airbags are essential for saving lives during traumatic collisions, but the force of deployment may also cause injuries that create muscle pain. Airbags can cause injuries to the chest, neck, back, and internal organs from the impact on the abdomen.

In rare cases, an airbag may also cause traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including a concussion. If you were involved in an accident that required the use of an airbag, seek medical attention for symptoms like headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, trouble breathing, or memory problems.

8. Contusions and Lacerations

A contusion is a medical term for a bruise or a collection of broken blood vessels beneath the skin. A laceration is a deep slash or wound that penetrates through the skin. The blunt force trauma of a car accident can cause contusions and lacerations that impact the entire body, including muscles.

Contusions and lacerations are typically visible at the scene of an accident or within a few hours from the time of a crash. They frequently occur on the hands, face, hips, legs, knees, and feet.

How Long Should You Be Sore After an Accident?

Car accident victims are typically sore for six weeks after a crash; however, muscle aches can last shorter or longer depending on the underlying injury. A minor strain may cause muscle pain and swelling that resolves in as little as three weeks. Severe whiplash may last for two to three months.

Some injuries, like whiplash, may have delayed symptoms up to several weeks that can extend how long you feel sore after an accident. If pain persists longer than you expected, schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to ensure your injuries have been properly diagnosed.

Doctor in lab coat holding clipboard and pen.

Should You See a Doctor for Muscle Pain?

Yes, you should always see a doctor for muscle pain. Minor aches are considered a normal side effect of being involved in a car accident; however, severe muscle pain can stem from a serious injury. When left untreated, sore muscles can become chronic pain, limited range of motion, or a permanent injury.

Medical care is a must if you plan to file a personal injury claim after a car accident. Your auto insurance company will look for formal documentation of personal injuries, such as a written diagnosis from a doctor, to approve your claim. Seek medical attention as soon as possible to protect both your health and your right to compensation for a car accident injury.

How Car Accident Muscle Pain is Treated

Since muscle pain after a car accident may have a variety of causes, treatment must begin with a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. An accurate diagnosis ensures that you and your doctor actively treat the root of the problem and not just the symptoms.

Diagnosis typically begins with a strength test that can reveal personal injuries to soft tissue like muscle and tendons. Then, your doctor will initiate diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or MRIs, to visualize the problem better. Once your doctor issues a diagnosis, you can begin treatment.

Treatment for healing muscle pain after a car accident typically includes:

  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Surgery (in severe cases)
  • Neck brace (in extreme cases)

Muscle pain treatment can last from six to 12 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. This months-long treatment process may incur steep medical bills as well as significant time away from work. For this reason, many car accident victims file a lawsuit to reclaim their damages.

Suing for Muscle Pain After a Car Accident

If you were injured in a car accident that was limited or no fault of your own, you could sue the at-fault driver for the damages the accident has caused. Damages is a legal term that refers to the money owed to compensate a victim for losses due to the accident or injury.

Common damages sought in a personal injury claim include:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Price of prescription medicine
  • Costs associated with medical equipment
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for travel to doctor’s appointments
  • Pain and suffering, both mental and physical
  • Mental anguish, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Lost wages or loss of earning

Some of the above damages are simple to price, such as the cost of prescription medicine, but others are not so easy. Pain and suffering or mental anguish are damages that do not come with a price tag. This is why it’s necessary to hire an experienced car accident attorney.

An attorney will work tirelessly by your side to gather all documents and receipts related to damages like medical bills or lost wages. Then, a lawyer will help you put a reasonable price on your mental and physical suffering, so you can be compensated for what you deserve.

Contact the Bryant Law Center for Help with Car Accident Muscle Pain

Do not ignore muscle pain as just another part of being involved in a vehicle collision. There could be a chance your muscle pain is a sign of a serious, life-changing injury. Let the professionals at the Bryant Law Center ensure you receive the proper care and compensation for your pain.

The Bryant Law Center is a Paducah, Kentucky, personal injury firm with decades of experience in the legal system. From rear-end collisions to high-speed crashes, we have the knowledge it takes to represent you, no matter what. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Mark Bryant
About the Author
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