If you’ve been in a car accident or workplace accident, you might not feel pain right away. You might feel like you’ve escaped completely unharmed, so you decide against going to the hospital, and you go about your daily life. But a few hours to a few days later, you could feel the creep of a delayed injury, or delayed pain, in a part of your body associated with the accident.
What can you do in this situation?
Recognizing Your Rights
First, you should understand your rights. Talk to a lawyer about your delayed injury to see if you may still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, or if you can pursue legal action against the driver of the responsible car. In many cases, you may still be able to get compensation for your injury, even if you initially seemed okay. Be sure to document anything and everything that happens to you from this point on.
Immediate Steps to Take
There are some immediate steps you can take to relieve the pain you’re experiencing. Assuming there are no clear signs of significant harm (such as bleeding, dislocations, or broken bones), you can take the following steps, the first four of which constitute the acronym RICE:
- Rest. The best first step you can take is resting. If your pain is associated with an activity, such as experiencing back pain when lifting an object, cease the activity immediately and indefinitely. Otherwise, take some time to lie down and relax, and get some extra sleep. The rest will give your body time to naturally heal itself in many cases.
- Ice. Utilize icing to reduce inflammation and dull the pain associated with the affected part of your body. In some cases, alternating between hot and cold stimulation can be even more relieving.
- Compress. If your soreness is associated with a joint, or with an extremity, use an ACE bandage or other wrapping to compress the site of the injury. The compression will help keep the swelling down, and may provide additional support for the affected area, reducing pain as you walk or go about your daily activities.
- Elevate. Keep the affected body part elevated as much as possible. This will optimize blood flow to reduce the inflammatory response, and keep your circulation moving, which may accelerate the healing process.
- Use NSAIDs. You can also use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen to block the body’s natural inflammatory response. This won’t make your injury heal faster, but it will serve as a temporary way to relieve the pain associated with it.
- See a doctor. If the pain persists for more than a day, or if your lawyer suggests getting a medical evaluation, see a doctor. It’s not a good idea to gamble with your health; your doctor may be able to diagnose your affliction in a way you can’t, or may have a suggestion to reduce the suffering you experience.
Managing Chronic Pain
If your pain persists beyond a few days, it may be the sign of a chronic long-term injury. If that’s the case, there are some strategies you can use to manage your pain long-term:
- Practice deep breathing and meditation. Contemplative, relaxing mental exercises like deep breathing and meditation have the power to take your mind off the pain, and come to peace with the current moment. It takes practice to make them work consistently effectively, but it’s worth the investment of time.
- Reduce stress. Excessive stress in your life can make chronic pain worse, no matter what the original source of the pain was. If you can, reduce the hours you work, delegate some of your responsibilities, and try to avoid sources of stress in your life.
- Exercise lightly. Harsh exercise might make your pain worse, but light exercise has therapeutic value. You’ll get a boost of endorphins, which can relieve some of your pain directly, and you’ll stimulate blood flow in your body, facilitating healing.
- Change your diet. You may also find that a change in your diet can alleviate some of your chronic pain. Eliminating junk food and soda, in favor of leafy green vegetables, fruits, and lean meats can make you feel better almost immediately.
- Join a support group. You aren’t alone in this process. Consider joining or starting a support group in your area so you can share your experiences and learn new management techniques.
Delayed pain after an accident is a common occurrence, but you don’t have to let it negatively affect your life. If you act proactively, you may be able to get compensation for your injury, reduce the pain you experience, and prepare a system for long-term pain management (if necessary).