Been in a car accident? Watch for hidden injuries

The immediate aftermath of any type of car accident is almost always traumatic -- and overwhelming. It's often hard to think straight and the adrenaline in your body can actually override pain sensations, making it hard to even know if you're injured or not.

On top of that, some injuries have a knack for not being obvious at first. That's why anyone who has recently been in a car accident needs to be conscious of the possibility of "hidden" injuries that they or their family members may have.

What relatively benign symptoms can be the potential sign of a serious problem?

1. Shoulder and neck stiffness

You may have a whiplash injury. Whiplash is caused by the force of your own body as your neck and head snap forward and back again at an abrupt stop. That's why even a moderately-slow speed of 14 mph or less can cause whiplash.

2. Chronic headaches

A headache that creeps up and won't go away (or stay away) for several days isn't uncommon -- and it could be evidence of anything from a traumatic brain injury to a blood clot. Get checked out at a hospital. It's better to endure a few tests and be sure then overlook something.

3. Numbness in the extremities

Numbness is never normal. Whether it's your arm, hand, leg or foot, it's a problem. Arm and hand injuries are often also related to whiplash -- there's a nerve bundle in the neck that runs all the way down to the hand. Leg and foot numbness could be the sign of a slipped disc in your back, pressing on your spinal cord.

4. Low-back pain

Low-back pain can be something like a muscle strain, a muscle tear or even a damaged vertebrae in your spine. The injury often isn't felt instantly because swelling develops over several days.

5. Pain in your stomach

Be particularly concerned if you have any abdominal swelling or bruising, because stomach pain can indicate life-threatening conditions like internal bleeding.

6. Personality changes

Changes in thinking, memory or moods can be some of the earliest signs of a traumatic brain injury. Keep in mind that even a mild concussion can cause serious damage.

If any of these conditions are troubling you after a car accident, by all means seek medical attention. You may eventually need to file a claim for compensation, but your health is your first priority.

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