Why Am I Shaking after a Car Accident? 

Aug 17, 2022

Stress after a Car Accident A car accident can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming experience. Even what might be considered a minor accident can still mess with your emotions and leave you feeling shaky and weak. It doesn’t matter if you were the driver or a passenger; a car accident can affect you both physically and emotionally. In fact, if you were in what is considered a minor car accident, you might be tempted to dismiss how you feel afterward by assuming it will go away after a few hours. But you want to get a thorough examination after even the most minor of accidents to ensure you weren’t injured. The shock of getting into a car accident can lead to a delayed car accident injury, where you might not recognize signs and symptoms right away. Shock from a car accident can leave you feeling disoriented and overwhelmed at the traumatic event that just occurred. Here’s what you need to know about shaking and other symptoms of shock after a car accident and what that might mean for you.

Post-Traumatic Stress after a Car Accident 

If you were involved in a car accident, you could experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress afterward. While we tend to associate PTSD with something veterans deal with, it can actually happen to anyone. If you experience a traumatic event, your body may react with distressing dreams, intrusive thoughts, or make you want to avoid certain thoughts or situations. After a car accident, you might feel reluctant to get behind the wheel again or drive past the place where the accident occurred. If you or someone else was seriously injured in the accident, you might feel overwhelmed with feelings like guilt and fear that it could have happened to you. Some people experience PTSD symptoms for just a few days, while others may deal with PTSD after a car accident for months or even years. It can take a while to mentally recover from the trauma of a car accident, and post-traumatic stress can manifest both emotionally and physically. Shaking hands, taking short breaths, and tensing your muscles are all physiological responses to stress you might experience after a traumatic event like a car accident.

Signs of Shock after a Car Accident

In the immediate aftermath of a car wreck, you could go into shock. As your body responds with a fight or flight response, you will get a flood of adrenaline that can quicken your heart rate and cause you to sweat. Adrenaline can also lead to rapid breathing, hyper-awareness, and even distract you from feeling pain or other symptoms of an injury. You could go into shock after a car accident and not even realize you were even injured at all. Signs of shock after a car accident include changes in your pulse, rapid breathing, lightheadedness, and cool, clammy skin. You might feel like you are in a daze and have trouble focusing on what’s going on around you. Some people who go into shock after a traumatic event even lose consciousness for a short period of time. If paramedics arrive at the scene of an accident, they may check you for signs of shock by looking for dilated pupils and checking your pulse.

Delayed Symptoms of a Car Accident Injury

Because of the shock and trauma of a car accident, you might experience a delay in symptoms. This means you might not notice any pain or discomfort immediately after the accident. But once you get home and have a chance to relax, delayed symptoms may start to set in. Some car accident injuries can also lead to swelling and inflammation, which can occur gradually. As swelling and inflammation get more severe, you might notice an increase in pain and other symptoms. Headaches are also a common delayed symptom after a car accident. What might just seem like minor head pain from the stress of getting into a car accident may develop into something more if you have an underlying injury you don’t know about. If your car sustained any kind of damage in the accident, then it’s likely that your body did too. With that in mind, your muscles, bones, and joints were likely pressured and stressed from the force of impact. As strains, sprains, or other injuries set in, you may start to notice pain, tenderness, and stiffness start to set in.

How Adrenaline Can Hide Injuries from a Car Accident

Adrenaline is a hormone that helps trigger the fight or flight response so that your body is prepared to handle a dangerous situation. When adrenaline floods your system during a traumatic accident like a car wreck, your body can better respond to the stressful situation and help you think better and stay safe. However, adrenaline can also mask pain and other symptoms. The effect of adrenaline is often referred to as stress-induced analgesia, which means it can prevent you from feeling any pain, even if you have a serious injury that needs attention right away. Right after the wreck happens, adrenaline can help you keep a cool head and stay calm while you check on yourself and others to make sure you are safe or get the help you need. Once your body recognizes you are in a safer space, you might experience the effects of the adrenaline as it leaves your body, which might leave you feeling shaky, tired, weak, and clammy.

Common Car Accident Injuries with Delayed Symptoms

What Is an Acute HeadacheYou might be surprised to learn that shock and adrenaline after a car wreck can keep you from recognizing obvious visible injuries, like serious bleeding or a broken bone. However, other common car accident injuries can easily get missed if you end up with delayed symptoms after a car wreck. Here are examples of common car accident injuries with delayed symptoms and how they could impact you.


Whiplash is the most common car accident injury and can cause pain and other symptoms in your head, neck, shoulders, and upper back. The force of impact when another vehicle collides with yours can cause your head and neck to suddenly jolt forward and backward rather violently. When this happens, your neck muscles may strain out of their typical range of motion, and other damage to your spine and soft tissues may occur, which is known as a whiplash injury. You might not even realize you have a whiplash injury right away because it can take time for the pain and discomfort to set in after the wreck. In the hours or days afterward, you might start to notice an increase in headaches, muscle stiffness, and difficulty turning your head in certain directions. Whiplash can even affect your spine in your neck and aggravate nerve endings, which may result in tingling and numbness that extends into your shoulders, arms, and hands.

Head Injury

A traumatic brain injury can occur if you suffer a blow to the head during a car accident. You may hit your head on the steering wheel, the window, or another part of the vehicle. Even what seems like a small bump in the moment can have a lasting impact and will need to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. Head injuries should always be taken very seriously, and you always want to err on the side of caution. A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury and can lead to uncomfortable symptoms that can cause physical, cognitive, and emotional effects in the hours, days, and weeks afterward. What might seem like shock or stress from getting into a car accident could actually be symptoms of head trauma and requires immediate medical attention.

Spine Injury

Your spine can absorb a lot of stress and pressure in the event of a car accident. When two vehicles collide, it can cause your whole body to jolt around and cause you to twist and bend in unnatural ways. This can lead to various spine injuries that can cause pain and discomfort that may take a while to set in. A spine injury like a herniated disc might only show signs and symptoms when you move a certain way, and immediately after the accident, you might find yourself moving more gingerly. Car accidents frequently cause misalignments in the spine, which can disrupt the healthy functioning of your central nervous system and lead to symptoms that show up all over the body.

How to Stop Shaking after a Car Accident

Immediately after an accident, you will want to take a few seconds to take deep breaths. Not only do deep breaths help ground you mentally, but they also help bring necessary oxygen to your brain and body so you can handle the stressful aftermath. You may not be able to stop shaking until the shock and adrenaline wear off, so make sure you make time for rest and relaxation once you get home after such a stressful event. Visit AICA Orthopedics in Marietta to learn more about how our team of car accident doctors can help you manage your symptoms and get the treatment you need for any injuries.


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