Any insights about car accident related pain?
May 11, 2010 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Any insights about car accident related pain? Disclaimer: (I am NOT getting serious medical advice online) It always seems like someone scolds me for that. I was in a car accident 2 weeks ago. We were going 40 and hit someone who pulled out in front of us. I went to the hospital to get checked out and they did xrays and whatnot and diagnosed me with "Severe Chest Trauma". I felt better progressively for the next few days, but then my chest (and lower back) started hurting slightly more each day up till now which is 2 weeks later.

Has anyone had this experience? Is it normal for the pain to get worse like that? If so, when can I expect it to subside? I am going to see a doctor later this week if it doesn't get better, so I am not getting medical advice online, but it would be nice to hear from someone who might have some insight. One other detail, I was wearing a seatbelt and there was no airbag on my side. The driver didn't have much trouble at all aside from some bruising from the airbag. Thanks for your time. Have a great day.

Also, my pain is not a outward muscle pain like you might get when weightlifting. It is a deep pain under the muscles. For some reason, if I get the hickups I am in agony. Thanks again!
posted by gibbsjd77 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Go to the doctor. It's not a good sign if you start to feel better, then relapse.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2010

Were I in your shoes, I would just call the hospital/clinic's 24 hour nurse advice line and ask them what they think. A nurse will be able to tell you if it is normal or concerning, and will have (safe, legit) suggestions on how to alleviate the pain. On here you're going to get a variety of opinions and a lot of anecdotes.
posted by castlebravo at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2010


I've had crush or impact injuries that felt worse a few days after the fact from swelling, but the got better. A major worsening over two weeks, or trouble breathing, or weakness, or loss of mobility, or expectorating even small amount of unusual substances, or anything of that types, strikes me as the sort of thing that justifies an ER visit.

If you're not in a lot of pain, I'd say use your discretion, but if the pain has gotten to the point that you're regularly not feeling that great and is getting worse, I would get in sooner rather than later.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:07 PM on May 11, 2010

Thanks. I only ask with the hope that someone has had this happen and has a rough idea of what's going on due to personal experience.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 2:08 PM on May 11, 2010

I haven't had this happen in the chest before, but I was in a crash and had a minor whiplash-type injury in my neck. I was really young at the time (16) and so I probably healed up from it much faster than an adult, but I remember that it didn't hurt much at all for the first day or two and I was thinking about taking off my dorky neck-collar thing. Then it started to get way sorer, probably peaking at about 7 days, and then started to get better.

Healing, in general, often has pain associated with it -- inflammation is a necessary component of the healing response. My non-medical guess is that as the deep structures that were injured begin to heal, all kinds of inflammatory processes are going on in there, which is making it hurt like hell. Probably you bruised some ribs and tweaked some of the deeper muscles and ligaments that hold you together, and they're getting cranky as they start to mend. I'd go see the doctor to make sure that there isn't anything unusual going on, and to see if you can get some pain killers to take the edge off. But I've noticed that biphasic pattern of suffering with pretty much every major injury I've had, from car crashes to broken bones.
posted by kataclysm at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2010

The same kind of accident happened to me last month. So did upper chest pain that gradually increased. The accident dislocated my right collarbone (I was wearing my seat belt over my left shoulder) and as other bruises and bumps subsided I noticed the pain more and more. Go back to the doctor for more x-rays or scans and expect a prescription for physical therapy. You might also have deep tissue damage or muscle tears; either way see a doctor asasp.
posted by motsque at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2010

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the insights. Have a great day.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 2:23 PM on May 11, 2010

No trauma is good trauma, and while many kinds of injuries can fill worse the next day or week, it is also possible for very small injuries to grow worse and worse. The emergency room is really geared to treating immediate conditions, and it is quite possible they missed small hairline fractures and soft tissue injuries that are beyond there scope.

In other words, I'm agreeing with those that say get to a doctor as quickly as possible and get a thorough examination. (and even if it isn't something serious, they can make the present more tolerable.

{Also, don't sign anything or even talk to anyone from the other guy's insurance company until after you have seen a doctor and have a 100% clean bill of health. }
posted by Some1 at 2:24 PM on May 11, 2010

I know that when I was in a car accident, I got dozens of solicitations from attorneys warning me that pain could develop days or weeks after the crash.
posted by something something at 2:30 PM on May 11, 2010

IANYD but I would recommend you go to the doc/ER ASAP. There are some things that might be missed on the initial exam that if allowed to get worse over time could be really really bad. An internal bleed, blood clot, rib fracture, vertebral fracture...all of these things can ruin your day if they are not taken care of properly.
posted by MsKim at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2010

One, agree with what others said about getting advice from your doctor as soon as possible. Two, even without fractures, even minor injuries to the ribcage can be painful for a very long time.
posted by jrdixey at 4:52 PM on May 11, 2010

After a similar injury I went to Urgent Care for an xray and was told I just had some bruising, nothing broken. The pain kept getting worse for a week or two and I had a bone scan (nuclear based) that revealed 3 broken ribs. So it's possible, and I've read even likely, that the ER missed something. My injury was near my heart and my sides hurt like hell after a few days from the rib's "knuckles" hurting, so it's even possible that you'll get pain in odd places from it, but like the others are saying, this really isn't one to second guess. I didn't, and that's the only reason I know this stuff. See a doc pronto.

BTW - this only factor that made sense for me was that pain from deep breathing got less bad as time went on. Hiccups, and flexing my chest muscles are an all out convulsion which hurt no matter what or when for at least two months. YMMV.
posted by jwells at 5:56 PM on May 11, 2010

This exact thing happened to me a few years ago. I was in a car accident, taken to the hospital, x-rayed, everything came out fine, then for the next few weeks I had serious pain in my chest that progressively got worse. My doctor explained it as a muscle bruise, which would get worse before it got better from the impact of my seat belt. The pain lasted almost a month, getting a lot worse before it got better. It felt like it was coming from the insides, and it seriously hurt when someone hugged me or I moved in certain ways or coughed. I just took a lot of ibuprofen and didn't let people hug me. If you're worried about it, go back to the doctor. But that was my experience. If I hadn't gotten x-rays at the time of the accident, I probably would have convinced myself I had broken ribs or something else horribly wrong.
posted by katypickle at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2010

It sounds like you know what you're going to do, and just want to think about this a little bit more.

Before anything else, I want to say that chest pain is a perfectly valid reason to go to the emergency department. I'm not going to tell you to rush to the emergency department right now, because I really don't know your situation in the least.

It is uncommon for pain from swelling to increase after maybe three or four days. The pattern of your pain is a little worrisome. Two weeks of increasing pain, assuming it's not just soreness, and that it's pain of a type you're not familiar with, is worrisome.

When you go to the doctor, these are the kind of questions they're going to ask you:

How old are you?
What medications do you take?
What other health problems do you have?
Can you give us some idea of the degree of pain? Is it worse than stubbing your toe? Is it worse than recovering from having your wisdom teeth removed?
Is this a pain similar to pain that you've had in the past? What was the cause of pain in that case? What happened when you had that earlier pain
Are there any adjectives you can supply to describe the pain, like burning, or crushing, for example?
Is there anything that makes the pain better or worse? When it hurts, what do you do to make it feel better?
Is the pain constant, or does it come and go?
Where is the pain located, precisely? Are you able to localize it with a finger, or does it take your whole hand, or is it bigger even that? Does it seem to radiate to any other location?
Has this pain changed in any quality other than the degree of pain since its onset?
Are there any other things going on that seem unusual? Do you lose your breath more easily, for instance?
Do you have discharge paperwork from your hospital stay or emergency room visit two weeks ago? What does the discharge paperwork say? What were your discharge instructions? Were you prescribed any medication? How long were you in the hospital for, and what did they do to you? Like, draw blood, start an IV, do a CT, perform emergency surgery?

These questions are easily as important as physical examination. More, in my opinion. If you answer them here, people will have more to go on with regards to your question. In particular, I might be able to make a judgment about whether I feel you should go to the emergency department right away, and that would give me a little bit of peace of mind :) In addition, you'll have some practice for when you talk to the real doctors. But if some of them are too private for the internet, that's cool too.
posted by nathan v at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2010

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