Why Am I Experiencing Delayed Upper Back Pain After A Car Accident?

Why Am I Experiencing Delayed Upper Back Pain After A Car Accident?

Picture it: You’ve just been in an auto accident. You get out of the car and start to move around. Nothing feels seriously wrong, and you think you are fine. You go home and don’t seek medical care. Then a week or two later, your upper back starts to hurt. You think, “Wait a minute, what happened? I thought I was fine!”

It turns out you were really injured in the auto accident, you just didn’t didn’t feel the pain right away. You felt sore but figured it would go away after a while. Maybe you took some over-the-counter pain relief medications or even received a pain medication prescription from your family doctor, but in that week or two, your untreated injury worsened until the pain finally got your attention.

In this article, we will look at why your upper back pain was delayed after the car accident, why it’s essential to get examined immediately for injury, and how an auto injury chiropractor can help you.

Adrenaline and Endorphins

When suddenly faced with a life-threatening situation, your brain and body trigger a release of hormones that enable you to react to the emergency and increase your chance of survival. This is the instinctual fight-or-flight response to danger: you either stay and fight the threat or do your best to run. So whether you’re being chased by a pride of hungry lions, trying to escape a burning building, or experiencing an auto accident, the resulting hormone release is the same.


Adrenaline (epinephrine) comes from the adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys. When alerted to danger, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands, releasing adrenaline into the bloodstream. With this “adrenaline rush,” your breathing and heartbeat accelerate, your body releases sugar for energy, and your senses and mental focus sharpen.

Oxygen-rich blood is directed to your muscles, enhancing your strength and ability to perform and save yourself. That extra strength—hysterical strength—may sometimes be extreme, such as the old tale of a parent lifting a car to save their trapped child.

There is another curious effect of adrenaline. If you’re injured, adrenaline diverts your attention away from the accompanying pain. This is why your upper back pain after the car accident will not manifest itself in the immediate aftermath.


In addition to adrenaline, your body also releases endorphins in response to perceived danger. These are the “feel good” hormones that relieve discomfort and increase pleasure. They are a natural pain reliever.

In a fight-or-flight situation, adrenaline helps you ignore the pain of an injury while endorphins reduce or eliminate it. However, neither adrenaline nor endorphins heal the injury. Therefore, you are injured but don’t know it yet.

car crash accident on street, damaged automobiles after collision in rainny day

The Survival Advantage of Feeling No Pain

Now take a minute and think about why it is to your advantage not to feel pain right away. After all, a significant purpose of pain is to alert you to injury and keep you from further hurting yourself, right? But when another car has just hit yours, your first instinct is to get away. That rush of hormones and surge of extra strength is designed to help you do just that. Pain and the knowledge of an injury will only slow you down. 

That adrenaline rush remains in effect until about an hour after your brain decides the danger has passed. After that, the pain gradually sets in.

Delayed Back Pain After Injury

The Adrenaline Rush

Let’s return to the scene of your auto accident. You’re out of your car, moving around, talking to the police, and exchanging insurance information, all while still under the influence of adrenaline and endorphins. What is crucial for you to know is that even though you’re feeling little to no upper back pain after your car accident, you may still be injured. 

The Developing Injury

The body doesn’t always experience the full extent of an injury right away. For example, when a person suffers a forceful blow to the head, it takes time for the brain to swell and the injury to progress. Likewise, an untreated injury may develop inflammation or infection, while a fracture may expand. 

Get Immediate Evaluation

We strongly encourage you to ignore the fact that you don’t feel pain. Assume that injury is possible anyway and get yourself evaluated as soon as you leave the accident scene. This is where chiropractors, such as the team at Kaizo Health, can help. 

The Chiropractor’s Auto Injury Treatment Plan

Upper back pain after a car accident is a symptom of several conditions, such as strained or sprained muscles, a herniated disc, or fractured vertebrae. After any immediate injuries have been either treated or ruled out, it’s time to visit your friend and mine, the auto injury chiropractor. Chiropractors are the recognized experts and specialists in the medical field when it comes to musculoskeletal auto injuries and are referred to by family practice doctors and hospitals alike but you don’t have to wait for a referral – you can book your appointment with Kaizo directly today. Seeing a family doctor is not enough after a car accident; you really need to see a chiropractor and the scientific evidence substantiates that those who see a chiropractor right away after an auto injury realize better quality care at a 2-3X cost savings according to this white paper study by Optum

A chiropractor will conduct a complete body evaluation, detecting injuries such as muscle and ligament tears that other doctors may not find on X-rays. Chiropractic treatment provides a drug-free solution to your pain and the injuries that cause it. When an injury is treated early, it can prevent further harm, the need for more invasive and complicated medical procedures, and years of chronic pain. 


When you develop upper back pain after a car accident, that pain may not fully take effect for several days or weeks. Adrenaline and endorphins will block the pain directly after the accident, and it may not intensify until inflammation or further injury have gradually set in. Therefore, it is essential to get an examination immediately, even if you don’t think you’re injured. An auto injury chiropractor will treat the cause of your pain and work to restore your body to its normal range of motion and function. You do not have to live the rest of your life in pain.

At Kaizo Health, our world-class team of chiropractors in Rockville, MD; Landover, MD; Fort Washington, MD; and Fairfax, VA, practices an evidence-based approach combining chiropractic care and physical therapy rehabilitation. We provide the treatment and resources you need to recover your health and strength. If you are suffering pain from an auto accident, don’t hesitate to contact us here. We are here to help! In the meantime, make sure that you check out our blog for more information on the chiropractic field, as well as our free virtual self-assessment chiropractic web app here.

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