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Why Whiplash Pain is Often Delayed After an Auto Accident

Whiplash is one of the most common auto accident injuries. It occurs when the head whips back and forth suddenly, causing trauma to the neck. Unfortunately, it can take days or even weeks for the full effects of whiplash to set in. In Florida, it’s essential to seek treatment within 14 days of an auto accident to use PIP insurance for the medical costs. By waiting to get treated until you feel the effects of whiplash, you may have to pay for the treatment out-of-pocket. 

There are a few reasons why whiplash pain is often delayed, including:


When you’re in a car accident, your body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered. This response is designed to protect your body against danger. Part of the fight-or-flight response is the release of adrenaline from your adrenal glands. Adrenaline is a hormone that prepares your muscles to act by increasing heart rate, airflow, and the amount of glucose in the blood.

In the case of whiplash, the adrenaline rush of the accident prevented your body from feeling the impact of the injury. While the release of adrenaline only lasts for the span of the accident, the effects of it can stick around. So, adrenaline can keep you from feeling whiplash pain until hours or days after the crash. 

Delayed Inflammation

For many people, the soft tissues in the neck don’t become inflamed immediately after whiplash occurs. Instead, the soft tissues gradually become inflamed. So, the body doesn’t register the pain from the inflammation until after the accident. Additionally, patients may not identify pain and other symptoms of whiplash, such as headache, reduced range of motion in the neck, and light sensitivity, as related to the injury. This can make it seem like the whiplash symptoms are delayed when in fact the patient’s recognition of the symptoms was delayed. 

Receive an Evaluation ASAP After An Auto Accident.

While symptoms of whiplash can be delayed, don’t wait to feel the symptoms of an injury before getting evaluated after a crash. In Florida, patients are required to receive treatment within 14 days of an auto accident in order to use PIP insurance. By waiting to get evaluated, you may miss this window and will no longer be able to use PIP coverage for the cost of treatment. 

If you were recently in an auto accident, visit the Florida Spine & Injury Institute of Lakeland for an evaluation. Our trained physicians can identify signs of whiplash and get you on the path to relief.