Could this really be anything other than bruising?
October 9, 2006 12:15 PM   Subscribe

How likely is it *really* that there's something worse than bruising wrong with me after a minor car accident?

On Friday I was in a minor car accident in my apartment's parking lot. A car backed out of a space and crashed into my moving car, resulting in a little damage to both of our cars, but neither of us seemed to feel hurt at the time. Since I was driving in the parking lot, I was going 10-15 mph, and while the idiot backing his car up was going too fast for what he was doing, it wasn't really *that* fast.

The next day I felt a little sore in my ribs and back and figured it was just the shock of the accident. Last night, my fiance put his arm around my ribs and I realized that it really kinda hurt. Today I'm also noticing that my ribs sort of hurt.

So, I know common sense says go to the doctor. And I am, I called my dr and am going to a walk-in urgent care clinic right after work. But seriously, is it really likely or even possible that it's anything other than some bruising from the seatbelt? The crash was so slow that the airbags didn't even deploy.

And I've been known to ponder things too much and be a little bit of a hypochondriac. I'm wondering if I'm imagining the ribs thing.
posted by catfood to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Just a little note: Airbag deployment is not only dependent on the force of the collision, but also the direction. If it's a side hit, for example, and your car doesn't have side airbags, the front airbags will generally not deploy.

Also, you wouldn't want to run into a brick wall at 10mph, would you? Just because it seems slow doesn't mean that significant damage can't be done.

My internet 2 cents: From what you describe, I bet you'll probably recover just fine in a week or two, but seeing the doctor is certainly a good idea.
posted by trevyn at 12:20 PM on October 9, 2006

Ah, I didn't know that. I thought the airbags deployed if it was a 15mph or over crash. It was a side-ish hit.

Also, does anyone know if they going to make me get x-rays to rule out broken bones or something?
posted by catfood at 12:24 PM on October 9, 2006

I wouldn't necessarily be worrying about broken ribs or anything, but its a good idea to see a doctor. In my experience, it's not uncommon for low-speed car crashes to cause lots of muscle tension that doesn't manifest for a few days - a friend of mine was in a similar accident last week and he's starting to feel neck and back muscle pain.

does anyone know if they going to make me get x-rays to rule out broken bones or something?

They're not going to make you get anything, but if you did have any problems, it's best to find out now to minimize any insurance issues (the other drivers insurance should be paying for most of this, btw).
posted by muddgirl at 12:56 PM on October 9, 2006

Anecdote: My friend got into a minor accident in a parking lot before. The car bumped into her car from behind and she got whiplash. She wasn't seriously injured, but she had to see a chiropractor for a few months, every week.
posted by catburger at 1:06 PM on October 9, 2006

Often because of shock / stress, you will not notice your injuries immediately after an incident. But certainly a few moments (and not more than half an hour) after the adrenaline dissipates, any major injuries such as broken bones, torn ligaments, etc. will be very obviously painful.

What you're likely experiencing is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and indicates muscle strain in the core / upper torso which can be anything from a nuisance to very, very sore. Maybe there's also hairline fractures of the ribs (because of the force of the seatbelt or seat), which don't require treatment aside from avoiding strenous activity.

Whatever it is, you should:

1) Not worry, because quite frankly your symptoms are trivial. The average kid suffers more during hockey practice.

2) Get fully checked out by your doctor, so that in the unlikely event that you did actually break or tear something, it is documented either for insurance coverage or for litigation.
posted by randomstriker at 1:09 PM on October 9, 2006

Bruised ribs hurt a lot. I didn't get them from a car crash, but breathing deeply felt awful for a while. If it's an option, it's probably a good idea to see a doctor just to be safe, but bruised ribs really feel awful!
posted by shownomercy at 1:11 PM on October 9, 2006

i was rear ended by someone going maybe 10mph on the freeway (in stop and go traffic).

the next day (and for the next 3 days or so) i had some soreness in my back, which surprised me since the actual collision was not that bad.

so i'm not a doctor of course but what you describe does not seem out of the ordinary, at least to me.
posted by joeblough at 1:31 PM on October 9, 2006

it is most likely nothing more than bruised ribs but its not impossible that they are broken, depending on many things about your personal body bones can be easily broken.. its always good to check. my husband had a broken neck and had no idea.
posted by trishthedish at 1:44 PM on October 9, 2006

Datapoint/anecdote: I hit a wall head-on doing about 40mph, airbags deployed and knocked my glasses clear into the back seat. My only injury was a bruise where the stick shift hit my palm.

I was well buckled and it was the kind of collision (head-on) that airbags/seatbelts are most able to cope with, but I was actually very impressed by how little drama was involved. My last thought before hitting the wall was "this is gonna hurt," and my first thought after was "that's it?"

However, I did go to a very good hospital and get everything poked by a doctor even though I felt fine. Saying "MVA" (motor vehicle accident) gets you moved to the top of the queue pretty quickly it turns out.

I guess my answer is you're probably fine. Modern cars are spectacularly good at keeping their occupants from not dying. Get it checked anyway.
posted by Skorgu at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2006

Anecdote: My friend was in a minor car accident (she rear ended someone) and was told to visit her doctor the next day as a precaution. She didn't go because she felt fine and was starting a new job the next day. A week later, she got her period, as normal, except for the fact that it went for a month before she went to see the doctor. An ultrasound showed that she has minor internal bleeding and she needed urgent surgery.
posted by cholly at 3:18 PM on October 9, 2006

>Bruised ribs hurt a lot.

Amen to that. I'm still in pain from a minor bump a couple of weeks ago. Breathing deeply hurt a lot. I got X-rays because the doctor wanted to rule out broken ribs and problems with the spleen which is in that general area (left).

What was most disturbing was chest pain when I was sitting still doing nothing. That scared me, quite frankly, but the doctor said it was just the muscles spasming.

Part of the problem was that I was favouring the other side, hardly using my left arm because it hurt, so the muscles were cramping up from not being used. What was truly weird is that my left lung wasn't inflated as much as the other, even when the X-Ray tech told me to take a deep breath. I had no idea I was able to inflate one lung differently to the other.

OK enough about me -- two short points:
  • rib pain is surprisingly strong even if there's nothing wrong
  • but get it checked out yes, because any chest/abdominal pain needs checking, and one pain could be concealing another

posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:16 PM on October 9, 2006

The worst car accident injury I ever had resulted from a low-speed collision like this, and I think it was because of the angle of the collision and the position of the shoulder belt by my neck (I am short). The effects of the collision affected me for a long time. You can still have some nasty injuries at low speed, believe it or not.

Other falls and accidents I've had have done much less injury even if they seemed more extreme when they happened. So yes, get checked out -- you might be fine, but it's best to check it all out to be safe.
posted by litlnemo at 6:52 PM on October 9, 2006

Little story, on my 18th birthday I went to pick up my birthday present, an amp, from a music shop. Not knowing the shop's address by memory I took the phonebook (a standard sized phonebook for a small city) with me. After making a quick stop at another store I was pulling out of a parking lot when -Kablammo- minivan. I was going maybe 5 mph. The van maybe 10 and it hit my left front bumper at it's right front wheel well.

Long story short, despite the low speeds, the phonebook flew from the passenger seat to the windshield and cracked it. I'm no physicist nor a doctor, so you can do the formulas for the force needed to propel a phonebook like that or to bruise your rib meat (or worse), but I'd still say that was an impressive show.

My untrained opinion, don't sweat it but see what the doctor says.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:47 PM on October 9, 2006

Go see a doctor. I was once sideswiped by an 18-wheeler while we were both going about 8 mph, and today, eight years later, I can pop joints in my back ribs without moving by just flexing my muscles in my back, and my neck makes funny noises when I turn my head. This did not happen before the wreck, but how would I prove it now?

Remember: force=massXacceleration. You were going slow, but were still hit by a pretty massive object. Go to a doctor, just to be safe.
posted by 4ster at 9:24 PM on October 9, 2006

Go see a doctor. It might not be anything, but you won't know unless you go. A few years ago, I was rear-ended by a speeding car who didn't notice the traffic stoppage on the highway (me=0mph, her=50+mph) and I ended up with no major injury (I saw her coming, so I let up on the's a long physics story).
BUT I definitely felt worse the second and third days than I did the first, and I saw a doctor to make sure nothing was wrong. Injuries are not directly proportional to the impact speed of the crash.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 11:13 AM on October 10, 2006

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