Sep 03, 2021 Dr. Corey Reeves

How Long Does Pain Last After a Car Accident?

Pain is the most common finding after a car accident. For a patient, this can cause a significant amount of uncertainty. The question we as providers hear most often is, “how long is the pain going to last?” We hear your concerns and desire to get back to life as soon as possible.

So, How Long Will You Be in Pain After a Car Accident?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The duration of pain can vary significantly depending on the underlying cause. It can be a few hours to years, depending on the severity of the issue and care received after the accident.

But, there’s hope! Seeking medical care early on improves the chances of quick relief and helps identify if any underlying conditions need to be further evaluated. It has been proven that patients who start treatment early have less pain, shorter recovery times, and less long-term disability. We recommend that you seek medical attention within 14 days of your accident to ensure care and help coordinate insurance coverage. Our team can help, and we have appointments available within 48-hours or less. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.


We have also compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions to help every patient figure out their next steps after a car accident. These questions are essential when starting your search and will help you find the correct provider for your situation.


Common Underlying Causes of Pain After a Car Accident

To get the pain relief you need after a car accident and understand how long you may experience your pain, you need to understand the underlying cause of the pain. Here are some common causes of pain after a car accident.


Soft Tissue Injuries:

The most common term used to describe pain after a car accident is whiplash. Commonly car accidents result in muscle spasms, sprains, and strains. These are typically characterized by muscle tenderness and a decreased ability to bend or rotate the spine. Injuries to the ligaments, tendons, fascia, or connective tissues are common after a car accident. The stretching or tearing of these structures can cause pain and instability of the spine in severe cases. 

Pain from soft tissue injuries typically has a good prognosis. Soft tissue injuries respond well to trigger point injections, chiropractic care, physical therapy, and non-addictive pain medications.


Spinal Disc Injuries:

Terms like slipped disc, herniated disc, or bulging disc refer to the intervertebral disc's damage. This damage can result in shooting nerve pain known as radiculopathy or sciatica if the disc is leaking or contacting an adjacent nerve.

Pain from disc injuries can have a variable duration of time before relief. Pain can last weeks to months. Often an epidural steroid injection is used to accelerate relief. Surgery is reserved for patients who do not get relief.



Fractures of the spine and extremities can cause severe pain, just like any broken bone. Bone pain typically takes a few weeks to improve and a few months to completely resolve. It is crucial to evaluate if any surgical procedure is required to aid with proper healing or if a patient can do well with casting or bracing.


Spinal Joint Injuries

The spine joints, known as the facet joints and sacroiliac joints, are commonly injured during a car accident. These joints allow for movement but are susceptible to damage when the back is forced into hyperextension, such as being rear-ended. Injury to these joints results in neck, back, and buttock pain. 

If conservative measures including therapy, chiropractic care, and medications do not improve pain quickly, then injections into the joints or joint ablations can provide relief. Most patients respond well to these interventions where pain is improved within a few weeks to months.


Rib Fractures Costochondritis

Rib Fractures and rib inflammation can cause extreme discomfort after a car accident. Pain with breathing and lying down are common. These pains have a good prognosis; however, it is essential to treat the pain as complications can arise, such as pneumonia due to the inability to take a deep breath. Pain typically improves within the first month; however, total relief may take 2-6 months. These conditions rarely require surgery and normally respond to medications.


Concussions or Mild TBI

Concussions are common after car accidents; these can cause headaches, poor sleep, decreased concentration, and other neurologic symptoms. The recovery time from a concussion varies. Typically a period of cognitive rest is recommended. Over time patients return to normal activities in a stepwise manner. As patients progress, they are monitored to avoid any setbacks or worsening of symptoms. Recovery often takes weeks to months, but patients have a good prognosis.


Let Us Help You Find Relief from Your Pain After A Car Accident

Being in pain after a car accident is not a place anyone wants to be, and different underlying causes of pain take different lengths to heal. Without proper care, patients can be left with pain much longer than they should.  Patients who seek care quickly and find providers with expertise can recover faster and avoid frustration. We at Excel Pain and Spine understand the urgency for patients and offer same-day appointments.  If you are suffering from pain after a car accident, please schedule an appointment so we can begin to help.


Published by Dr. Corey Reeves September 3, 2021