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Types of Pain after a Car Accident: Acute vs. Chronic Pain

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The human body is not designed to sustain the impact of a car accident. Even a minor fender bender can leave victims in pain for days, weeks, or even months.

Unfortunately, car accidents can cause many different types of injuries and pain. Below, our legal team at the PARRIS Law Firm will discuss the definition, causes, and treatments for acute vs. chronic pain after a car accident, as well as what your pain means for your car accident injury claim.

Acute Pain

In the medical world, an “acute” condition refers to one that is sudden and severe in onset. Acute pain, therefore, refers to any sudden and sharp pain that lasts less than six months.

Most acute pain conditions have a clear source, such as tissue damage or a broken bone. Treating the pain usually involves treating the underlying condition.

Causes of Acute Pain after a Car Accident

Several types of injuries can cause acute pain after a car accident, including:

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Sprains, strains, and bruises
  • Whiplash
  • Herniated spinal discs
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions

Learn more details about these common injuries after a car accident.

Some Pain after a Car Accident is Delayed

When you are in a car accident, your fight or flight response kicks in, pumping adrenaline throughout your body. Adrenaline decreases your ability to feel pain while the response is active, so you may not realize you are injured until hours or days after your initial accident.

After this response wears off and you begin to relax again, your body may alert you to your injuries by swelling and pain at the injury site. However, this may not happen for days, weeks, or even months after the accident.

For this reason, the attorneys at PARRIS Law Firm recommend visiting a medical provider after a car accident, even if you don’t think you are injured. A doctor will be able to diagnose any injuries you may have sustained and treat any symptoms that arise.

Along with seeking medical treatment, speaking to a lawyer may be the best way to protect your rights after an accident. A trusted attorney will ensure that the compensation you receive is enough to cover the cost of your care, even if the onset of your injuries was delayed.

Chronic Pain after a Car Accident

Unlike acute pain, chronic pain lasts more than six months. Roughly 20% of Americans experience chronic pain in some form, but the condition is extremely difficult to diagnose.

Chronic pain is usually triggered by a traumatic event, such as a car accident. Oftentimes, the victim may experience acute pain from their car accident injuries that does not go away as the injuries heal. This condition is what some doctors refer to as chronic pain syndrome (CPS).

Types of Chronic Pain Syndrome after a Car Accident

Chronic pain syndrome (CPS) can show up in many forms, and it is different for each person. Examples of chronic pain include:

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Though doctors can often identify what triggers chronic pain syndrome, it can be difficult to determine why some people experience lingering pain while others do not. According to WebMD, some doctors think that CPS patients feel pain differently due to differences in their body’s stress response.

Regardless of the cause, CPS can be debilitating for those who experience it. Chronic pain can lead to sleep problems, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Chronic pain after a car accident can also manifest as other conditions, such as fibromyalgia and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Acute Pain After A Car Accident Can Develop Into A Chronic Pain Condition.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain in the muscles and bones. In addition to chronic pain, fibromyalgia can cause fatigue, sleep problems, mood issues, brain fog, and increased pain sensitivity. Unfortunately, this chronic pain disorder often accompanies other medical problems, such as migraines, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bladder problems, and anxiety or depression.

Many medical sources cite car accidents as a common cause of the illness.

Doctors also think that genetics may play a role in causing fibromyalgia, as the disorder tends to run in families. In addition, people with autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are also at increased risk of developing fibromyalgia.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), formerly known as Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), is another specialized chronic pain condition that usually affects the arms or legs. The disorder usually appears after an injury, illness, or traumatic event and presents as pain far out of proportion with the original injury.

MayoClinic lists several symptoms that may indicate CRPS, including:

  • Intense, throbbing pain in an arm, leg, hand, or foot
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch in the affected limb
  • Temperature and touch sensitivity
  • Temperature changes in the affected area
  • Changes in skin color or texture
  • Changes in hair and nail growth in the affected area
  • Joint stiffness
  • Limited mobility of the affected area

There are two types of CRPS:

  • Type 1, which is diagnosed when the patient has no history of nerve damage; and
  • Type 2, which occurs after a nerve injury.

Resources for sufferers of CRPS are available at the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association’s website.

Treating Chronic Pain after a Car Accident

The treatments for chronic pain conditions are limited. Oftentimes, chronic pain conditions can’t be “cured,” but symptoms can be managed with any of the following treatments:

  • Spinal cord stimulators
  • Pain medications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Topical pain relievers
  • Antidepressants
  • Physical therapy
  • Healthy behaviors, including eating and sleeping habits
  • Support groups and cognitive behavioral therapy

Some chronic pain conditions go away on their own; others stay for years. Regardless, treating chronic pain that results from a car accident will require the help and guidance of a licensed physician for the duration of your symptoms.

Proving Chronic Pain in Court

Chronic pain changes a patient’s life forever, and treatment can be expensive. When your symptoms resulted from a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you deserve to be compensated for your extreme pain and suffering, as well as the medical bills you may incur for treatment.

However, because pain is subjective, insurance companies may use it against you in a legal battle. They may assert that you aren’t actually in pain just to avoid liability for your suffering.

At PARRIS Law Firm, we do not let this happen. Our attorneys specialize in fighting for victims of catastrophic personal injuries, including horrific pain conditions such as CRPS.

When you are experiencing chronic pain after a car accident, hiring a lawyer is the surefire way to protect your rights.

Call PARRIS Car Accident Attorneys

PARRIS Law Firm is home to some of the nation’s best trial attorneys. We have been fighting for victims of catastrophic car accidents since 1985. Since then, thousands of clients have seen their lives restored.

Do not wait until it’s too late. If you’ve suffered injuries from a car accident, call PARRIS Law Firm, and we’ll review your case for free. You won’t pay a cent in legal fees until we win.

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